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Your cancer is in remission. What’s the next step?

June 13, 2014

You feel overjoyed, thankful and relieved. You feel strong and proud of what your body has overcome. Your cancer has been declared in remission.

There is perhaps no greater feeling than knowing that you have overcome one of the greatest challenges in your life—facing a cancer diagnosis. But you might also feel concerned or even slightly worried. “What if the cancer comes back,” you think. You might also be wondering what kind of follow-up care you’ll need or where you can get your questions answered as you adjust to this new phase of your life.

No matter what type of cancer you had or how long you went through treatment, it is important for all cancer survivors to receive regular follow-up care. This is a key step in making sure you remain healthy following your cancer treatment. Not only will your doctors provide you with the follow-up medical care you need, but they can also help you navigate through the many changes you’ll face. Think of them as an extra support group that’s there for you whenever you need them.

What Type of Doctor Should You See After Cancer Treatment?

After you’ve been declared in remission, the first thing you should do is decide which doctor to see for your follow-up cancer care. This might be the same doctor who provided your cancer treatment, or it may be an entirely new doctor.

For regular medical care, it is usually best to continue seeing your general family doctor. If you have any specific concerns or health issues, you can always ask your doctor to send you to a specialist.

The decision of which doctors to see for follow-up care is an important one that you should discuss with your current team of doctors. They can help you make this transition following your cancer treatment.

What to Do Before Your First Follow-Up Appointment

Before meeting with your doctor, ask your oncologist to provide a written summary of your treatment. It is important to share this summary with any doctor you see because it will help them make sure you get the proper follow-up care.

You should also make sure that you bring a notebook with you so that you can take notes during your appointment. It may be a good idea to ask a friend or family member to come along to your appointment as well. Don’t be afraid to ask—having another person there can help you understand what the doctor says and think of new questions to ask.

Meeting with Your Doctor

When you meet with a new doctor, always be sure to mention your history of cancer. While it may not always seem relevant to you, it is important that your doctor knows. The type of cancer you had and the treatment you received can affect decisions about your follow-up care.

At each of your follow-up appointments, you may also have a list of questions you’d like to ask. For example, if you’re struggling with pain, fatigue or other side effects following your cancer treatment, be sure to tell your doctor and ask what can be done to ease your symptoms.

Your doctor or nurse will be happy to answer your questions and help you in any way they can. That’s what they are there for. If you don’t understand the answer, don’t be afraid to ask your doctor to explain it in simpler terms. Always ask for more information if you need it.

Questions to Ask

If you’re struggling to think of questions to ask your doctor, try using this list to help get you started:
  • Which doctors should I see?
  • How often should I see a doctor?
  • What tests do I need?
  • What can be done to relieve pain and fatigue after treatment?
  • How long will it take for me to recover and feel more like myself?
  • Is there anything I can or should do to keep the cancer from returning?
  • Are there any support groups I can go to?
Becoming a cancer survivor is, without a doubt, something you should be very proud of. Your body has overcome more than what seemed possible at times—but you did it. The fight doesn’t end here though. It is important to continue to take care of your body during this time of change.

Be sure to check back soon for Part 2 — creating a wellness plan after cancer treatment.