Follow-Up Care

Towards the end of your treatment, a meeting is usually arranged between you and your cancer care team. During this discussion, you will be given information about what may happen after your treatment finishes and what to expect. This is usually an ideal time to ask any questions you may have or voice any concerns.

The team will also help you to set a plan in place to help with your recovery. You may experience a huge sense of relief when treatment ends but you may still experience some lingering side effects from the treatment, as these can take a few weeks or months to subside. You may also find that you are experiencing a range of other emotions once treatment ends. These can be anything from relief to being fearful and unsure about the future and anxiety. It is important to talk through these emotions with a friend, a family member or a member of your care team who can support you.

At the end of treatment, most patients are given the details of a person they can contact after treatment finishes. This person could be called your “key worker” and may be a specialist nurse or another member of the care team. Your GP is another port of call if you have any questions or concerns.

Questions you may have at this time

  1. What happens to me once my treatment finishes?
  2. Will I need to take any medication long term? If so, what will it be and for how long and what are the side effects?
  3. How long will it take before I start getting back to feeling normal?
  4. Will I still be under your care after my treatment finishes?
  5. How often will I be followed-up with in the clinic?
  6. Who can I contact if I have problems in between follow-up appointments?
  7. What are the long-term or permanent side effects of my cancer and treatment?
  8. If I am worried about the recurrence of cancer, whom should I speak to?
  9. Is there anything I can do to stop the cancer from coming back?
  10. If the cancer comes back, what options will I have?

After Treatment

After your treatment ends you will usually see your cancer team for regular follow-up care. How often you see them depends on several factors:

  • The type and stage of the cancer you had.
  • The treatment you had.
  • Your needs and choices.
  • The protocols in place at the hospital you are seen at.

It is natural to feel worried before an appointment. Often revisiting the hospital can bring up old memories of your journey and remind you of what you have been through. On the other hand, it can also show you how far you have come.

Types Of Follow-Up Care

There are different types of follow-up care. In most cases, you may see the cancer team more regularly in the first year or the first few years after your treatment ends. After this, the number of follow-up appointments may change and slow.

The follow-up appointment:

These follow-up appointments aim to make sure you are doing well. In some cases, you may be asked for a blood test or a scan before your appointment. These tests can help the doctors see how you are doing. It may also help them to quickly pick up any abnormalities that may indicate that cancer has returned.

The doctor or nurse may examine you and do some quick and simple tests (like a blood sample). This is a chance for you to have a chat with your cancer team about any issues you are facing, such as side effects to the treatment which may be ongoing. This is also a good chance to tell them if you have noticed or experienced any new symptoms.

You need to attend these appointments. If you do not attend, it is very difficult for your cancer team to monitor your recovery. They will not be able to pick up on any problems or issues you are facing if you do not attend. If there is any problem and you cannot attend, please let the cancer care team know ahead of time and they will reschedule for you.

If you need to access any other services, the team can help to arrange that for you as well. For example, specialist services like a psychologist or a counsellor for emotional support or a physiotherapist for recovery exercises.

Points to remember before your appointment

  • Write down any questions you would like to ask before the appointment.
  • Take someone with you for emotional support. They may also be useful in case you cannot remember certain things.
  • Always tell your doctor and nurse ANY ongoing or new symptoms or any other worries you may have.
  • Take your list of medications with you. Include all medications (prescribed or non-prescribed) including any vitamins, minerals, and herbal medicines. The doctor will be able to advise you in case any of these medications interact with or affect each other.
  • Be honest and open with them if you are emotionally struggling. They will be able to advise you on the right support available to you.

Road To Recovery

Recovery after cancer is different for each patient. Although you may feel relieved about the treatment being over, it is completely normal to have mixed emotions. It is normal to have good days, where you feel happy and optimistic and some bad days, when you may feel anxious, scared, resentful or uncertain of what your future holds for you. Cancer patients who have been given the all-clear or who are in remission often find themselves being extra cautious about any new changes within their body or how they are feeling.

Although it is true that after treatment you are now a different person from who you were before your cancer diagnosis, there is no reason why you would not be able to live a fulfilling life. This period is all about discovering your “new normal.” This process can take time so please be patient with yourself as you adjust.

You may wish to start thinking about doing the things that were normal for you before treatment, like getting back into work or education again. You may also wish to get back into old hobbies or develop new ones. Many people find exercise to be a good hobby to start at this time.

Whatever you decide to do, please remember to give yourself time. Recovery is not a sprint but a marathon. On some days you will feel great and be able to do everything you set out to do. On other days you might not. You may need to build up your physical strength again. Sometimes this recovery is more about your emotions than the physical side. It may take time to build up your self-confidence again. Please remember that all of this is possible with time and the right support.

This is also a good time to make positive lifestyle changes. This will help you on your road to recovery. Your cancer care team and GP can provide you with information and support. There are several changes you could make.
  • Stop smoking NOW. Whatever type of cancer you had, this is the best change you could make for your health. Smoking increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and developing new cancers. Giving up smoking is never easy but there is a lot of support available. Please contact the NHS Support service or your GP for more information on the treatments and aids available to help you quit.
  • Be more active. Start small. Perhaps, start by going for a short walk every day. This will give you more energy and help to build your strength. You can slowly increase your level of activity. Be wary of doing too much, too quickly. Your GP or the cancer care team can advise you on the type and amount of exercise you should do. Your hospital may also have an exercise programme for people recovering from treatment. Ask your GP or cancer care team.
  • Eat healthy. Eating a balanced and varied diet of nutritious food will help your recovery and give you energy. It will also help to maintain your weight at a healthy level.
  • Lots of fruits and vegetables.
  • Plenty of starchy foods (carbs), like rice, potatoes, bread and pasta.
  • Wholegrain foods, rather than processed grains.
  • Protein-rich foods, like meat, fish, eggs and pulses.
  • Milk and dairy products, like cheese, butter and yoghurt.
  • A small number of foods that contain fats, salt and sugar.

In some cases, treatment can cause eating problems. If this is true for you, please follow the advice of your cancer care team, dietitian or GP.

Your diet may need to be altered if you have had any treatments which may affect your digestive tract, for example, surgery to the bowel or radiotherapy to the pelvic region. Please adhere to the advice of your doctor and care team.

  • Maintain a healthy weight. This can help to reduce the risk of developing other health problems. If you need to lose weight, please consult your GP and make sure you do this at a slow pace. If you need to gain weight, please speak to your cancer care team. They can help you to gain weight in the best way for you.
  • Reduce stress. From diagnosis to treatment, you will have had a very difficult few months or years. This can be an extremely stressful time. You may wish to express your feelings and talk things over with friends, family or a health professional. Some people find support groups helpful as it is a good place to meet other people who have had similar experiences to you.
Safeena - Muslim Cancer Support Network

Safeena - Muslim Cancer Support Network

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