Managing Your Emotions and Health After Cancer

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 08/2015

Watch the "Moving Forward" video series for young adults, adapted from this content.

During the past few months, or longer, your life has revolved around your cancer treatment and recovery. Now that treatment has ended, your routines, emotions, and priorities will likely change.

Understanding and coping with change

You may find that the experience of living with cancer makes you look at your life in a new way. This perspective may cause you to reevaluate your priorities and goals. Here are some of the changes you can expect after treatment for cancer has ended.

  • Routine changes. It is likely that you will be spending much less time visiting the doctor now than during cancer treatment. If you were not attending school or working, you may be returning to school or work after treatment ends. You may also have more free time to do activities that you enjoy or to hang out with friends. However, remember that you may not have the energy or ability to return to your normal routine immediately. Ease back into activities when you feel comfortable. And, recognize that some things may never be the same. Although that may seem discouraging, you can view this as a new chapter of your life, full of possibilities.  

  • Emotional changes. Along with changes to your routine, you may experience new emotions after finishing treatment. In addition to feeling happy, relieved, and excited, it is normal to experience some negative emotions during this transition period:

    • Fear that the cancer may return

    • Anxiety about returning to work or school

    • Insecurity about treatment-related changes to your body

    • Frustration that your recovery is slower than you would like, or that you can't do some of the things you could do in the past

    • Sadness about how your life may have been different if you had not been diagnosed with cancer

    • Isolation because you don’t see your supportive health care team as often or because you have grown apart from friends who you did not see often during your treatment

    • Guilt that you are recovering while some of your friends with cancer are still in treatment

    • Concern about medical bills and health insurance

    • Uncertainty about your future

  • Coping with change. Some young adults find that they need help coping with changes in their lives after cancer treatment ends. Here are some suggestions that have helped other young cancer survivors adjust:

    • Keep talking about how you're feeling with a close friend, your parents or other family members, your nurse or doctor, or a counselor.

    • Write in a journal to process your thoughts and emotions and to set goals.

    • Keep in touch with people you met during your cancer treatment, and look forward to meeting new people in this new phase of life.

    • Attend a support group in person or online. You might even consider one for young adult cancer survivors.

    • Find a way to help other young adults with cancer. You've learned a lot from your experience that you can share.

    • Do things you enjoy and consider exploring new activities and trying to master new skills.

Managing your health

After cancer treatment, you may feel relieved to take a break from focusing on your health. However, continuing to manage your health after cancer treatment ends will be an important part of taking care of yourself. Here are some things to expect for the future:

  • Follow-up care. For the first couple of years after treatment ends, you will need regular follow-up care with your oncologist. This includes checkups to make sure that the cancer has not come back and to monitor how your body is recovering from treatment. Learn more about the importance of follow-up care.

  • Late effects. An important reason to receive follow-up care is to look for late effects or long-term side effects of treatment. Late effects are side effects that occur months or years after cancer treatment. Learn more about common late effects.

  • Changing doctors. At some point after treatment ends, you will probably switch from seeing your oncologist to seeing your primary care doctor. It’s important that you see a doctor who knows about the possible long-term effects of cancer in young adults. Your oncologist can recommend doctors in your area. Or, you can ask whether a hospital or cancer center in your area has a program that specializes in providing long-term follow-up care for cancer survivors.

  • Keeping your medical records. Along with getting regular checkups, it’s important to keep a copy of your medical records. ASCO offers survivorship care plans to help keep track of the cancer treatment you received and develop a survivorship care plan once treatment is completed. Ask your oncologist to help you obtain a paper and/or electronic copy of your medical record.

  • Health insurance. It’s important to keep health insurance coverage even after you’ve completed cancer treatment. However, this can be difficult if recovering from cancer has kept you from obtaining insurance through enrolling in school or holding a job. In these situations, young adults need to find other insurance coverage. One possibility is through state or Federal insurance exchanges. Another is through a parent’s insurance. A provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is that young adults can remain on their parent’s health plans until age 26, as long as a parent has health insurance. Learn more how health care reform affects young adults at

More Information


Financial Resources

Additional Resource

LiveSTRONG Foundation: Your Survivorship Care Plan