For those checking out the article today I want you to be aware that am not giving medical advice on how to survive cancer recovery. What I am doing is giving news and information and real facts based on studies and real medical statistics from experts in the field of oncology as well as references from legit and valued medical experts. The thing I do know is just like every fingerprint, every cancer and illness has a unique path and case for everyone. That means that people who have had cancers and died can be different for someone with the same type of cancer who survived. People with terminal disease have beat the odds. People who were told they will survive only a certain amount of years after cancer have survived much longer than was expected. People with cancer that have been told it will return again have beat the odds and gone on living a full life with no more cancer coming back. The only thing that is true for all of these people is that they didn’t know for sure if they could get over it 100% or without it coming back. Nobody gets that guarantee. I am sure people who never changed anything about their lifestyle after surviving cancer have also had good luck and survived a full life without seeing cancer related issue again but that is luck.
To those recovering and to those who survived and those who are in after care and starting over, you got this. Make healthy changes, fight like pioneers in the past who fought hard and beat statistics, follow up with your medical team, and make healthy choices. You can stay healthy and happy and be yourself once again in a full glorious life after cancer. Just believe in yourself and work hard and seek support and take a day at a time. Savor life’s great joys and be aware that life is a gift and YOU have a purpose for surviving and over coming the odds.
Cancer survivors: Care for your body after treatment.
Simple steps can improve your sense of well-being and your quality of life after cancer treatment. Find out what you can do.
After your cancer treatment, as a cancer survivor you’re eager to return to good health. But beyond your initial recovery, there are ways to improve your long-term health so that you can enjoy the years ahead as a cancer survivor.
The recommendations for cancer survivors are no different from the recommendations for anyone who wants to improve his or her health: Exercise, eat a balanced diet, maintain a healthy weight, get good sleep, reduce stress, avoid tobacco and limit the amount of alcohol you drink.
But for cancer survivors, the following strategies have added benefits. These simple steps can improve your quality of life, smoothing your transition into survivorship. Here’s what you can do to take care of yourself after cancer treatment.
Regular exercise increases your sense of well-being after cancer treatment and can speed your recovery.
Cancer survivors who exercise may experience:
- Increased strength and endurance
- Fewer signs and symptoms of depression
- Less anxiety
- Reduced fatigue
- Improved mood
- Higher self-esteem
- Less pain
- Improved sleep
- Lower risk of the cancer recurring
Adding physical activity to your daily routine doesn’t take a lot of extra work. Focus on small steps to make your life more active. Take the stairs more often or park farther from your destination and walk the rest of the way. Check with your doctor before you begin any exercise program.
With your doctor’s approval, start slowly and work your way up. The American Cancer Society recommends adult cancer survivors exercise for at least 150 minutes a week, including strength training at least two days a week. As you recover and adjust, you might find that more exercise makes you feel even better.
Sometimes you won’t feel like exercising, and that’s OK. Don’t feel guilty if lingering treatment side effects, such as fatigue, keep you sidelined. When you feel up to it, take a walk around the block. Do what you can, and remember that rest also is important to your recovery.
Exercise has many benefits, and some early studies suggested that it may also reduce the risk of a cancer recurrence and reduce the risk of dying of cancer. Many cancer survivors are concerned about cancer recurrence and want to do all they can to avoid it.
While the evidence that exercise can reduce the risk of dying of cancer is preliminary, the evidence for the benefits of exercise to your heart, lungs and other body systems is substantial. For this reason, cancer survivors are encouraged to exercise.
Eat a balanced diet
Vary your diet to include lots of fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains. When it comes to selecting your entrees, the American Cancer Society recommends that cancer survivors:
- Eat at least 2.5 cups of fruits and vegetables every day
- Choose healthy fats, including omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in fish and walnuts
- Select proteins that are low in saturated fat, such as fish, lean meats, eggs, nuts, seeds and legumes
- Opt for healthy sources of carbohydrates, such as whole grains, legumes, and fruits and vegetables
This combination of foods will ensure that you’re eating plenty of the vitamins and nutrients you need to help make your body strong.
It’s not known if a certain diet or certain nutrients can keep cancer from recurring. Studies examining low-fat diets or diets that contain specific fruits and vegetables have had mixed results. In general, it’s a good idea to eat a varied diet that emphasizes fruits and vegetables.
While it may be tempting to supplement your diet with a host of vitamin and mineral supplements, resist that urge. Some cancer survivors think that if a small amount of vitamins is good, a large amount must be even better. But that isn’t the case. In fact, large amounts of certain nutrients can hurt you.
If you’re concerned about getting all the vitamins you need, ask your doctor if taking a daily multivitamin is right for you.
Maintain a healthy weight
You may have gained or lost weight during treatment. Try to get your weight to a healthy level. Talk to your doctor about what a healthy weight is for you and the best way to go about achieving that goal weight.
For cancer survivors who need to gain weight, this will likely involve coming up with ways to make food more appealing and easier to eat. Talk to a dietitian who can help you devise ways to gain weight safely.
You and your doctor can work together to control nausea, pain or other side effects of cancer treatment that may be preventing you from getting the nutrition you need.
For cancer survivors who need to lose weight, take steps to lose weight slowly — no more than 2 pounds (about 1 kilogram) a week. Control the number of calories you eat and balance this with exercise. If you need to lose a lot of weight, it can seem daunting. Take it slowly and stick to it.
Sleep problems are more common in people with cancer, even survivors. This can be due to physical changes, side effects of treatment, stress or other reasons.
But getting enough sleep is an important part of your recovery. Sleeping gives your mind and body time to rejuvenate and refresh to help you function at your best while you’re awake. Getting good sleep can boost cognitive skills, improve hormone function and lower blood pressure. It can also just make you feel better in general.
To optimize your chances at getting good sleep, practice healthy sleep hygiene:
- Avoid caffeine for at least 8 hours before bedtime
- Stick to a regular sleep schedule
- Avoid computer or television screens for 1 to 2 hours before bedtime
- Exercise no later than 2 to 3 hours before going to bed
- Keep your bedroom quiet and dim
If you feel excessively sleepy during the day, talk with your doctor. You may have a sleep disorder or a problem caused by side effects of your cancer or its treatment.
As a cancer survivor, you may find that the physical, emotional and social effects have taken a toll on your psyche. Though there’s no evidence that managing stress improves chances of cancer survival, using effective coping strategies to deal with stress can greatly improve your quality of life by helping relieve depression, anxiety, and symptoms related to the cancer and its treatment.
Effective stress management strategies may include:
- Relaxation or meditation techniques, such as mindfulness training
- Cancer support groups
- Medications for depression or anxiety
- Interacting with friends and family
Stop using tobacco
Kick the habit once and for all. Smoking or using chewing tobacco puts you at risk of several types of cancer. Stopping now could reduce your risk of cancer recurrence and also lower your risk of developing a second type of cancer (second primary cancer).
If you’ve tried quitting in the past but haven’t had much success, seek help. Talk to your doctor about resources to help you quit.
Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all
If you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger.
Alcohol does have health benefits in some people — for instance, consuming a drink a day can reduce your risk of heart disease. But it also increases the risk of certain cancers, including those of the mouth and throat.
While it isn’t clear whether drinking alcohol can cause cancer recurrence, it can increase your risk of a second primary cancer.
Weigh the risks and benefits of drinking alcohol and talk it over with your doctor.
Do what you can
While you may worry that it will take an entire overhaul of your lifestyle to achieve all these goals, do what you can and make changes slowly. Easing into a healthy diet or regular exercise routine can make it more likely that you’ll stick with these changes for the rest of your life.
Follow-Up Medical Care
All cancer survivors should have follow-up care. Follow-up care for cancer means seeing a health care provider for regular medical checkups once you’re done with treatment.
These checkups may include bloodwork, as well as other tests and procedures that look for changes in your health, or any problems that may occur due to your cancer treatment. These visits are also a time to check for physical and emotional problems that may occur months or years after treatment ends.
Your follow-up care plan, along with a summary of your cancer treatment, is part of what is called a survivorship care plan. This plan will have all the details that you and your doctor should discuss to ensure that you get regular care after your treatment ends.
Note that the information in this section focuses on follow-up care for your cancer treatment. But it’s important that you keep getting your routine care from your primary care provider in addition to follow-up cancer care.
ON THIS PAGE
- Getting a Follow-Up Care Plan
- Common Questions After Treatment Ends
- Your Follow-Up Care Schedule
- What to Tell Your Doctor During Follow-Up Visits
- Your Treatment Summary
- Guidelines for Follow-Up Care
- Guidelines for a Healthy Lifestyle After Cancer Treatment
- Research in Follow-Up Care
Getting a Follow-Up Care Plan
Once your cancer treatment ends, you should receive a follow-up cancer care plan from your oncologist or someone on your treatment team. A follow-up care plan is a summary of your treatment, along with recommendations for your cancer care after treatment ends. Your plan may also include suggestions to help meet other needs, such as emotional, social, or financial issues.
Choose your doctor. For follow-up cancer care, you may see the same doctor who treated you for cancer, or you may see another health care provider, such as one who specializes in follow-up care for cancer survivors. Or you may decide to go to your primary care doctor. You can discuss which doctor(s) to see with your health care team.
Keep each doctor in the loop about your care. Keep in mind that once you choose which doctor to see, it may be up to you or a loved one to make sure each doctor knows when there are changes with your care. Some research has shown that sometimes treatments or tests with one doctor aren’t communicated with the other doctor. Ask both your doctors to send clinic visit notes to each other so everyone can be on the same page.
Follow-up care for childhood cancer survivors is very similar to the steps for adults. While most of the information below is equally important for children, see Care for Childhood Cancer Survivors for more tips.
Common Questions After Treatment Ends
When you receive your follow-up care plan from your doctor or other health care provider, answers to the questions below should be provided. Make sure to ask any other questions you may have:
- How long will it take for me to get better and feel more like myself?
- Which doctor(s) should I see for my follow-up care? How often?
- What symptoms should I watch out for?
- What tests do I need after treatment is over? How often will I have them?
- What are long-term health issues I might expect as a result of my cancer treatment?
- What is the chance that my cancer will return?
- What records do I need to keep about my treatment?
- What can I do to take care of myself and be as healthy as possible?
- Can you suggest a support group that might help me?
You might find it helpful to write these questions down. When you meet with the doctor or follow-up care specialist, you can take notes or record your talks to refer to later. Talk about any concerns you have related to your follow-up care plan.
Your Follow-Up Care Schedule
Each patient has a different follow-up care schedule. How often you return for follow-up visits is based on:
- The type of cancer you had
- The treatment you received
- Your overall health, including possible treatment-related problems
In general, people return to the doctor for follow-up appointments every 3 to 4 months during the first 2 to 3 years after treatment, and once or twice a year after that.
At these visits, you may have a physical exam along with blood tests and other necessary tests and procedures. Which tests you receive and how often you receive them will be based on what your doctor thinks is best for you when creating your follow-up care plan.
What to Tell Your Doctor During Follow-Up Visits
When you meet with your doctor for follow-up visits, it’s important to talk openly about any physical or emotional problems you’re having. Always mention any symptoms, pain, or concerns that are new or that won’t go away.
Keep in mind that just because you have new symptoms, it doesn’t necessarily mean the cancer has come back. It’s normal to have fears about every ache and pain that arises, but they may just be problems that your doctor can easily address.
Other things you should tell your doctor:
- Any physical problems that interfere with your daily life, such as fatigue; problems with bladder, bowel, or sexual function; having a hard time concentrating; memory changes; trouble sleeping; or weight gain or loss
- Any new medicines, vitamins, herbs, or supplements you’re taking
- Changes in your family medical history
- Any emotional problems you’re having, such as anxiety or depression
It’s important to be aware of any changes in your health between scheduled visits. Report any problems to your doctor immediately. They can decide whether the problems are related to the cancer, the treatment you received, or an unrelated health issue.
Your Treatment Summary
Your oncologist or a member of your treatment team should give you a written summary of the treatment you received. Keep this with you to share with your primary care doctor and any other doctors you see. Many people keep their treatment summary in a binder or folder, along with their medical records. This way, key facts about your treatment will always be in the same place.
Types of health information in the treatment summary
The date you were diagnosed
- The type of cancer you had
- Pathology report(s) that describe the type and stage of cancer in detail
- Places and dates of each treatment, such as the details of all surgeries; the sites and total amounts of radiation therapy; and the names and doses of chemotherapy and all other drugs
- Key lab reports, x-ray reports, CT scans, and MRI reports
- List of signs and symptoms to watch for and possible long-term effects of treatment
- Contact information for all health professionals involved in your treatment
- Any problems that occurred during or after treatment
- Any supportive care you received during treatment (such as medicines for depression or anxiety, emotional support, and nutritional supplements)
Be an active partner. Many cancer survivors say that getting involved with their follow-up care was a good way for them to regain some of the control they felt they lost during cancer treatment. Being an active partner with your doctor and asking for help from other members of the health care team is the first step. Knowing what to expect after cancer treatment can help you and your family make plans, lifestyle changes, and important decisions about the future.
Guidelines for Follow-Up Care
The following programs or organizations provide helpful follow-up care guidelines for some cancers. You can use them to help you talk with your doctor, but they aren’t meant to take the place of your doctor’s knowledge or judgment.
The Children’s Oncology GroupExit Disclaimer, an NCI-supported clinical trials group, offers long-term follow-up guidelinesExit Disclaimer for survivors of childhood, adolescent, and young adult cancers. It also has a series of fact sheets called Health LinksExit Disclaimer, which provide information for healthy living after childhood cancer.
The OncoLife Survivorship Care PlanExit Disclaimer was developed by Livestrong and the University of Pennsylvania. It provides survivors of adult cancers with a personalized survivorship care plan, based on the information they enter into an online program.
Guidelines for a Healthy Lifestyle After Cancer Treatment
After cancer treatment, many survivors want to find ways to reduce the chances of their cancer coming back. Some worry that the way they eat, the stress in their lives, or their exposure to chemicals may put them at risk for recurrence. Cancer survivors find that this is a time when they take a good look at how they take care of themselves and how they might live a healthier life.
You can decide what is in your plan. Ask your doctor about developing a survivorship care plan that includes ways you can take care of your physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs. If you find that it’s hard to talk about these issues, it may be helpful to know that the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Your doctor may also suggest another member of the health care team for you to talk with about wellness, such as a social worker, nutritionist, clergy member, or nurse.
Some general tips for all cancer survivors include:
Quit smoking. Smoking after cancer treatment can increase the chances of getting cancer at the same or a different site.
Cut down on how much alcohol you drink. Drinking alcohol increases the risk of certain cancers.
Maintain a healthy weight. Eating well and staying active can help you reach a healthy weight and stay there. Eat well. A healthy and balanced diet is important for overall wellness. This includes eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein. Talk with your doctor or a dietitian to find out about any special dietary needs that you may have. You could also ask if you should talk to a nutritionist for guidance on eating a healthy diet.
Eat well. A healthy and balanced diet is important for overall wellness. This includes eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein. Talk with your doctor or nurse to find out about any special dietary needs that you may have. You could also ask if you should talk to a nutritionist for guidance on eating a healthy diet.
Exercise and stay active. Research suggests that staying active after cancer may help lower the risk of recurrence and lead to longer survival. In addition, moderate exercise (walking, biking, swimming) for about 30 minutes every—or almost every—day can:
- Reduce anxiety and depression
- Improve mood and boost self-esteem
- Reduce fatigue, nausea, pain, and diarrhea
It’s important to start an exercise program slowly and increase activity over time. Some people may need to take special care when starting new. Talk with your doctor before you begin any exercise program, and work with your doctor or a specialist (such as a physical therapist) if needed. If you need to stay in bed during your recovery, even doing small activities can help. Stretching or moving your arms or legs can help you stay flexible, and relieve muscle tension.
Research in Follow-Up Care
NCI recognizes the importance of follow-up care after cancer treatment. Below are examples of NCI-supported research to improve the lives of cancer survivors.
Childhood Cancer Survivor Study (CCSS)Exit Disclaimer. The CCSS was created to gain new knowledge and educate cancer survivors about the long-term effects of cancer and cancer therapy, and to provide information about follow-up care.
Follow-up Care Use Among Survivors (FOCUS). The FOCUS study was created to better understand the many aspects and quality of follow-up care, to document the prevalence of late and long-term effects of cancer and its treatment, to understand survivors’ knowledge of late and long-term effects, and to study health-related quality of life and behaviors in long-term survivors.
Healthcare Delivery Research Program (HDRP). The HDRP was established by NCI’s Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences (DCCPS) in January 2015 to advance innovative research to improve the delivery of cancer-related care and follow-up care.
Survey of Physician Attitudes Regarding the Care of Cancer Survivors (SPARCCS). The purpose of the SPARCCS study was to identify perceptions, knowledge, and practices of primary care and oncology specialist physicians about follow-up care of adult cancer survivors after treatment.
- Updated: November 4, 2020
Care After Cancer Treatment
Getting active in your follow-up care after cancer treatment can make a world of difference.
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.
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.
Follow-Up Exams May Be Frequent
In general, survivors see their doctors for follow-up exams about every three or four months during the first two to three years after treatment, according to the National Cancer Institute. But follow-up schedules vary from person to person, depending on one’s age, general health, the type of cancer, the treatment received, and other factors. “Different standard approaches depend on the intensity of treatment and the chance of recurrence,” says Derek Raghavan, MD, PhD, who serves as chairman of The Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Center.
Many, but not all, patients will require testing. That, too, is individualized. Common follow-up tests include: imaging procedures (such as CT scans, X-rays, and ultrasound); endoscopy (inserting a thin, lighted tube into the body to examine organs), and blood tests.
Many patients will receive follow-up care from their oncologist, the cancer specialist who treated them, while others will get follow-up care through another doctor, such as an internist or gynecologist.
During follow-up, doctors also check for side effects of cancer treatment. Three months out of chemotherapy, Ronan says his side effects have been limited to skin discoloration on his arms. But his doctor will also watch for effects of chemotherapy that include increased risk of infection, organ damage and infertility.
Some risks from cancer treatment can show up a decade or more later. In Hodgkin’s disease, leukemia can develop five to 10 years after chemotherapy. Also, lung, breast, or stomach cancers can occur 10 or more years after treatment. In another example, women who have undergone chest radiation face increased risk of breast cancer. “They needed to have mammography done at more frequent intervals,” McCabe says.
Because cancer treatment can cause pain, fatigue, swelling of limbs, sleep disturbances, premature menopause, and other problems, survivors may benefit from other forms of follow-up care, too. For example, some will need physical therapy to restore lost mobility, while others will require pain management, infertility treatment, or counseling for depression.
Get Active in Your Follow-Up Care
During follow-up, a cancer survivor’s cooperation is key, Raghavan says. “It’s important not to miss appointments.” Follow-up also allows survivors a chance to take part in their own care and to regain a sense of control that they lost during treatment. They may want to ask their doctor the following:
- How often should I come in for follow-up appointments?
- Which follow-up tests do I need? How often?
- What symptoms should I watch for? Which ones might show that cancer has come back?
- Whom should I call if I see these symptoms?
- What can I do to relieve pain related to cancer treatment?
- Do I need to see any other doctors?
- What are the potential long-term effects of my cancer treatment?
- Where can I get reliable information about my type of cancer?
Click WebMD for rest of the article.
Click the image below to be taken to a free pdf download called “Life After Cancer Treatment” which gives. advice on following up, changes to expect, and the suggested guidelines from the National Institute of Cancer when you are starting over after cancer treatment. This may not be for every situation or person but will give you an idea of what to prepare for and expect in your new recovery. I hope this will help anyone that is trying to figure it all out but feels lost a little. Just click on the image.