Follow up care is needed after treatment no matter what type of cancer you have had. Understanding what to expect after cancer treatment, the possible outcome, what the future holds etc helps you to handle the disease and live with it better. It also allows you to plan important issues such as finances, life style changes etc. The follow up schedule for any patient depends on the type of cancer, type of chemotherapy you have had and your overall health.
Follow up care for every patient is usually different. After the completion of your chemo treatment, your doctor will advise you on how often you should come for follow-ups and more. Usually, most cancer survivors are advised a follow-up every 3 to 4 months during the first 2 to 3 years after completion of the treatment and in certain cases, once or twice a year after that.
During the follow up visits, your doctor will check you for:
- Side effects from treatment.
- Recurrence of cancer.
- Spread of cancer to other parts of the body (metastasis).
Your doctor may do follow-up tests such as:
- Blood tests.
- MRI or CT scans to look for recurrence of tumour (these are painless and non-invasive tests, which take a series of detailed pictures of different parts of the body that need to be examined).
- Endoscopy (a special instrument with a small fiberoptic camera may be passed into the body to look inside the body).
During your first follow-up visit, your doctor will advise you about your follow-up care plan. A follow-up care plan includes home care, occupational or vocational therapy, pain management, physical therapy and support groups.
Some questions that you should ask your doctor at follow up are:
- When can you resume your normal activities?
- How often should you come for a follow up?
- Which tests will be done, how often and why?
- What are the symptoms of recurrence of cancer?
Self-care after cancer treatment
After cancer treatment, you may want to adopt a healthy lifestyle. This will help you to feel healthy and perhaps reduce the risk of the cancer’s recurrence. Some changes you may consider include:
Quit smoking: According to studies, smoking increases the risk of cancer including the chances of recurrence (at the same site or another site).
Decrease alcohol intake: Research shows that alcohol consumption increases the risk of cancer, including its recurrence.
Eat well: Consult your doctor to know if you need to take any type of special diet after your treatment. Healthy food choices and physical activity can probably decrease your risk of cancer or its recurrence. Usually, healthy food choices include eating plant-based diet (5-9 servings of fruit and vegetables daily), whole grain food products (such as cereals, breads and pasta), low fat milk and avoiding fatty food, food with high salt content etc.
Exercise and stay active: According to research, staying active after cancer can probably reduce the risk of recurrence and improve survival. Any moderate exercise (such as walking, biking, swimming etc) for 30 minutes on most days of the week is adequate.
Other measures: Try to reduce anxiety and depression, maintain a healthy body weight and improve or boost your mood and self-esteem.
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