Skip to content

Cancer Health Center

Care After Cancer Treatment

Getting active in your follow-up care after cancer treatment can make a world of difference.
Font Size
A
A
A
By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

When Don Ronan, a 40-year-old Connecticut salesman and father of three, found out that chemotherapy had put his Hodgkin's disease in remission, he was ecstatic. "The CT scan showed that it was gone from my pelvis, my stomach, my bone marrow. I was cancer-free," he says. "I didn't feel broken anymore."

Ronan has made the momentous crossing from cancer patient to cancer survivor. Now he enters follow-up care, a stage familiar to almost 10 million other Americans who have beaten the disease. When cancer treatment ends, a survivor still undergoes regularly scheduled medical exams and tests to check for signs that the cancer has returned or spread to another part of the body. Doctors also screen for other types of cancers and watch for side effects from cancer treatment. During this important period, patients can work with their doctors to keep an eye out for new problems, cancer experts tell WebMD.

Recommended Related to Cancer

Cellular Classification of Pheochromocytoma and Paraganglioma

Pathologic Classification Pheochromocytoma and paraganglioma characteristically form small nests of uniform polygonal chromaffin cells ("zellballen"). A diagnosis of malignancy can only be made by identifying tumor deposits in tissues that do not normally contain chromaffin cells (e.g., lymph nodes, liver, bone, lung, and other distant metastatic sites). Regional or distant metastatic disease is documented on initial pathology in only 3% to 8% of patients; thus, an attempt has been made...

Read the Cellular Classification of Pheochromocytoma and Paraganglioma article > >

Surviving cancer is a blessing. "But it comes at a cost," says Mary McCabe, RN, MA, director of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center's Cancer Survivorship Program, which develops medical and psychosocial services and educational programs for cancer survivors. While radiation and chemotherapy can offer a cure, they can also create side effects, such as fatigue or infertility -- or even new cancers a decade or two down the road. Through follow-up, "we want to make sure that we minimize the serious side effects that may occur," she says.

Follow-up Care Is Individualized

The period after cancer treatment is fraught with distinct stresses. "When patients finish therapy, they're exhausted physically and emotionally," McCabe says. What's more, there are no more treatments to go through; no more intensive contact with doctors; no more battle mentality. Instead, the follow-up period involves watchfulness, and a cancer survivor may feel dread before appointments or during the anniversary of a cancer diagnosis.

Ronan says that Hodgkin's disease, a cancer of the lymph system, changed his outlook on life. "I'm nervous about tomorrow," he says. He'll need follow-up appointments about every three months for the first two years, then less frequently. He'll also require follow-up scans.

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

Colorectal cancer cells
A common one in both men and women.
Lung cancer xray
See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
 
sauteed cherry tomatoes
Fight cancer one plate at a time.
Ovarian cancer illustration
Do you know the symptoms?
 
Jennifer Goodman Linn self-portrait
Blog
what is your cancer risk
HEALTH CHECK
 
colorectal cancer treatment advances
Video
breast cancer overview slideshow
SLIDESHOW
 
prostate cancer overview
SLIDESHOW
lung cancer overview slideshow
SLIDESHOW
 
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
SLIDESHOW
Actor Michael Douglas
Article