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Surviving Cancer

The following information has been provided with the kind permission of the National Cancer Institute.

What is Normal After Cancer Treatment?

Congratulations on Finishing Your Cancer Treatment! Ending cancer treatment can be both exciting and challenging. Most people are relieved to be finished with the demands of treatment, but many also feel sadness and worry. Many are concerned about whether the cancer will come back and what they should do after treatment.

When treatment ends, people often expect life to return to the way it was before they were diagnosed with cancer. This rarely happens. You may have permanent scars on your body, or you may not be able to do some things you once did easily. Others may think of you--or you may view yourself--as being somehow different.

After you've finished your cancer treatment

This information designed mainly for cancer survivors who have recently completed their cancer treatment, but you may find the information helpful even if you were treated a long time ago. The purpose of this information is to give cancer survivors and their loved ones a better idea of what to expect during the first few months after treatment ends. It covers what may happen with:

  • Your medical care
  • Your body
  • Your mind and your feelings
  • Your social relationships
  • Practical matters such as job and insurance issues

As you'll see, this information talks about many concerns of those who have been through cancer treatment and offers suggestions that have helped others move forward. As you read, you may find yourself saying, "That's just how I feel."

Although this information describes issues that are important to many survivors, each person has a unique response to having cancer. While some of the issues covered may reflect your experience well, other issues may not concern you. Focus on finding what works for you. The information is not intended to be all-inclusive. Resources are provided at the end of the article if you need more information on a given topic or one that is not included. We encourage you to be active in getting the information and support you need.

It is natural for anyone who has finished cancer treatment to be concerned about what the future holds. Many people worry about the way they look and feel and about whether the cancer will come back. Others wonder what they can do to keep cancer from coming back. Understanding what to expect after cancer treatment can help survivors and their families plan for follow-up care, make lifestyle changes, stay hopeful, and make important decisions.

All cancer survivors should have follow-up care. But you may have a lot of questions about getting the care you need now, such as:

  • Whether to tell the doctor about symptoms that worry you
  • Which doctors to see after treatment
  • How often to see the doctor
  • What specific tests you need
  • What you can do to relieve pain and other problems after treatment
  • How long it will take for you to recover from treatment and feel more like yourself

Dealing with these issues can be a challenge. Yet many say that getting involved in decisions about their future medical care and lifestyle was a good way for them to regain some of the control they felt they lost during cancer treatment. Research has shown that people who feel more in control feel and function better than those who do not. Being an active partner with your doctor and getting help from other members of your health care team is the first step.

This next section offers some guidance on working with the people who provide care after treatment. It describes the kinds of help you may need and provides tips for getting what you want out of your medical visits. Reading this section can also help you create a plan of action for your recovery and future health.



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