Frequently Asked Questions for Survivors
Am I a survivor?
Cancer survivorship begins on the day of diagnosis. Although some people don’t like the word survivor or feel that it applies to them, the term survivor helps many people think about embracing their lives beyond their diagnosis. For some, treatment can be a long and challenging journey. It is not uncommon for survivors to have residual side effects even after treatment ends.
How often do I need to see my doctor for follow-up?
The purpose of follow-up care for cancer is to maintain good health after treatment, which includes coping with side effects of treatment, as well as watching for signs of recurrence. In general, survivors should see their oncologist every three months for the next three years, then every six months for two years and then annually thereafter. Specific imaging examinations and laboratory tests will be determined by your oncologist depending upon the type of cancer and treatment that you received. In addition, reconnecting with your Primary Care Provider (PCP) is also very important to ensure that regular health screenings are performed.
What can I do to help reduce my risk of cancer from recurring?
Results of research studies are revealing the importance of embracing healthy lifestyle choices as ways to help reduce the risk of cancer recurrence. Exercise, making healthy food choices, not smoking and wearing sunscreen as well as in adhering to recommendations for follow-up care are ways to help decrease the risk of cancer recurrence.
How do I manage the long-term effects of treatment?
Most individuals experience some side effects during treatment, but it’s often surprising to survivors that the side effects of treatment can linger on. Fatigue is the most common side effect of cancer and its treatment, and it varies in degree from person to person. It can be sporadic or constant, and our patients tell us that it is one of the most distressing symptoms that they experience. According to the American Cancer Society, about 30-50% of cancer survivors reported experiencing fatigue months to years after the end of treatment. Exercise has been found to be the best way to help manage fatigue. Speak with your oncologist about a referral to our Specialty Rehabilitation Program that can help plan an individual program for you to help regain function and improve endurance.
What symptoms do I need to report to my doctor?
In general, any new or persistent symptom should be reported to your doctor. Not all new symptoms mean that the cancer has returned. Having a diagnosis of cancer doesn’t make survivors less prone to developing other conditions that may occur as a result of the aging process, so it’s very important to continue with regular medical and dental screenings.
How do I manage my anxiety and fears?
Moving forward after cancer treatment can be hard, but remember that you did everything you could to treat the cancer. Fear of recurrence is worrying about cancer coming back, spreading, or a new cancer developing. These feelings are normal and also very common. Some people have so much worry about their cancer returning that they are anxious all the time, have trouble working and spending time with family. Processing the cancer experience takes time and some ways that you can help manage these concerns and fears are to rely on trustworthy sources of information such as your treatment team, talking with supportive friends or family, or participating in a support group or seeking individual counseling can be very helpful.