How are follow-up care schedules planned?

The frequency and nature of follow-up care is individualized based on the type of cancer, the type of treatment received, and the person’s 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.

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At these follow-up appointments, the doctor may recommend tests to check for recurrence or to screen for other types of cancer. In many cases, it is not clear that special follow-up tests improve survival or quality of life. This is why it is important for the doctor to help determine what follow-up care plan is appropriate.

The doctor may not need to perform any tests if the person appears to be in good physical condition and does not have any symptoms. It is important for the patient to talk with the doctor about any questions or concerns related to the follow-up care plan.

When planning a follow-up care schedule, patients should consider who will provide the follow-up care and who will provide other medical care. They should select a doctor with whom they feel comfortable. This may be the same doctor who provided the person’s cancer treatment. For other medical care, people should continue to see a family doctor or medical specialist as needed.

Some people might not have a choice in who provides their follow-up care, because some insurance plans pay for follow-up care only with certain doctors and for a set number of visits. In planning follow-up care, patients may want to check their health insurance plan to see what restrictions, if any, apply to them.

Are there doctors or clinics that specialize in follow-up care?

There are clinics that specialize in long-term follow-up cancer care for adult and pediatric cancer survivors. More information about these clinics can be found through the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, which can be reached by phone at 301–650–9127 or by e-mail at [email protected].

For assistance in Spanish, call NCI’s Cancer Information Service at 1–800–4–CANCER (1–800–422–6237) and follow the prompts to speak with a bilingual information specialist.

For children and adolescents, the Association of Cancer Online Resources, a cancer information system that offers access to electronic mailing lists and websites, provides a list of long-term follow-up care clinics on its Ped-Onc Resource Center  page.

NCI’s Office of Cancer Survivorship also maintains a directory of post-treatment resources, including where to get follow-up care after cancer treatment.