Care After Cancer Treatment
Getting active in your follow-up care after cancer treatment can make a world of difference.
Get Active in Your Follow-Up Care continued...
Knowledge is power, so Raghavan strongly urges survivors to read up on their cancer. "Educated patients are much better consumers. They should go online to reputable sources that have good information."
Bob Hammer agrees that patients must be active on their own behalf. When the 37-year-old California man had a recurrence of testicular cancer during his follow-up phase, he got savvy fast. When his doctor suggested surgery that would render him unable to have children, Hammer turned to the Internet.
"You should do a lot of investigating and ask lots of questions," he says. "Make sure you're comfortable with what's being recommended. It's not a foregone conclusion that you have to do what the doctor says." Armed with information, he switched to a new doctor who successfully treated him with chemotherapy. Had Hammer listened to the first doctor, "My 2-year-old Joshua wouldn't be here today," he says.
Symptoms Worth Reporting
During the follow-up period, it's crucial for survivors to tell their doctors about any physical and emotional changes, McCabe says. According to the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society, cancer survivors should report the following:
- Any symptoms that create concern that cancer has come back
- Pain, especially pain that does not go away or occurs in the same place
- Lumps, bumps, or swelling
- Unusual bleeding, rashes, or bruises
- Fever or cough that doesn't go away
- Physical problems that are troublesome or affect daily function, such as fatigue, weight gain or unexplained weight loss, difficulty sleeping, or loss of sex drive
- Emotional problems, such as anxiety or depression
- Other medicines being used, as well as vitamins, herbs, and complementary or alternative treatments
"Patients shouldn't place all responsibility on follow-up visits to identify recurrences, new cancers, or complications of treatment. In fact, patients are often the first ones to notice that something is wrong. They must act, McCabe says, especially if they're worried that the problem could be cancer-related. "Between visits, if there's something that causes you concern, either a psychological problem or a physical problem, you should call and make an appointment," she says. "That isn't something to leave until the next routine checkup."