What should patients talk to their doctor about once cancer treatment ends?

Every cancer survivor should request a comprehensive care summary and follow-up plan from their doctor once they complete their treatment. Patients should ask their doctor the following questions once cancer treatment ends.

The answers can help inform the patient about their care and what to expect next. (See Question 7 for more information about plans for follow-up care.)

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  • What treatments and drugs have I been given?
  • How often should I have a routine visit?
  • Which doctor should I see for my follow-up cancer care?
  • What are the chances that my cancer will come back or that I will get another type of cancer?
  • What follow-up tests, if any, should I have?
  • How often will I need these tests?
  • What symptoms should I watch for?
  • If I develop any of these symptoms, whom should I call?
  • What are the common long-term and late effects of the treatment I received?
  • What should I do to maintain my health and well-being?
  • Will I have trouble getting health insurance or keeping a job because of my cancer?
  • Are there support groups I can turn to?

Many patients find it helpful to write these questions down and take notes or tape record their discussions with the doctor to refer to at a later time.

How can patients deal with their emotions once cancer treatment is completed?

It is common to experience stress, depression, and anxiety during and after cancer treatment. Many people find it helpful to talk about their feelings with family and friends, health professionals, other patients, members of the clergy, and counselors or therapists. Being part of a support group can provide another outlet for people to share their feelings.

Relaxation techniques, such as guided imagery and slow rhythmic breathing, can also help to ease negative thoughts or feelings. Reaching out to others by participating in volunteer activities can help people to feel stronger and more in control.

However, people who continue to experience emotional distress should ask their doctor to refer them to someone who can help determine what may be causing or contributing to their distress and how to deal with it.