Follow On Care
When your main treatment is over it’s important to give yourself time to adjust to the emotional and physical consequences of cancer treatment. You may not need further treatment because your cancer has been cured. Or you may be living with cancer and the possibility of more treatment in the future.
This section provides a brief overview of what to expect in terms of ‘follow up’ and ‘rehabilitation’ once your main treatment has ended. Its important to remember that even after treatment, cancer patients and their families should continue to have a ‘Key worker’ – someone they feel able to contact with questions or concerns. If you are unsure who this is, please ask your GP or a member of your hospital healthcare team.
If you have recently completed treatment you may like to check out the ‘Ten Top Tips’ that have been developed by a group of health professionals in partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support. Their brief guide includes suggestions to help you get the best care and support available and to help you lead as healthy and active a life as possible
All cancer patients can expect to be ‘followed up’ by the clinical team that have treated their cancer. The frequency, location and content of the follow up will vary according to the type of cancer and treatment. The traditional patterns of follow up care have been changing over recent years and cancer teams are trying to tailor after treatment appointments to meet the needs of individual patients.
To start with you may be seen every few months, but this will eventually lessen to once a year. At each appointment, the doctor will examine you and ask questions about your health and how you’ve been feeling. You may also have blood tests, or occasionally scans. Again, this will depend on the type of cancer you have been treated for.
Not everyone is seen as regularly as this. Instead, you may be advised to get in touch with your GP, specialist doctor or nurse if you develop any new problems. You will be given advice on which symptoms or side effects to look out for. It may be useful to check with your specialist team to find out who to get in touch with if you notice problems, and to make sure that you have their phone number.
When you are free of cancer, treatment is finished and you are well, it is likely that the hospital clinical team will stop your follow up – don’t be alarmed by this. In many cases follow up in these circumstances ceases to have any benefit in terms of your cancer. If this is the case the clinical team should explain to you how they can be contacted if you have any concerns.
‘Rehabilitation’ is about supporting patients to have the best possible quality of life both during and after treatment.
Rehabilitation is not just about improving physical health through help with such things as mobility, diet and fatigue. Good quality cancer care must consider social and emotional wellbeing too – including worries about the future, relationships, work and financial matters.
The experiences and needs of every cancer patient will be different. There is often an expectation that the end of treatment will be a time for celebration and for thinking about ‘getting back to normal’. However, even if treatment has been successful, it isn’t unusual for patients to experience a feeling of isolation which can be difficult to share with friends and family members.
Meeting the ‘holistic’ needs of both the patient and carer is increasingly being seen as a crucial part of good cancer care and recovery. You should feel able to raise concerns about any aspect of your health and general wellbeing with your GP or a member of your Hospital team. Whilst they might not be able to answer all of your queries directly you can expect the team to refer you to the relevant expert.
The cancer teams In North Wales are piloting and developing a number of Health and Wellbeing Clinics and ‘After Treatment Programmes’ which will aim to help patients manage the transition from active treatment to resuming as normal a life as possible. These resources are in addition to the normal follow up appointments, and the emphasis is on empowering patients by making them more knowledgeable and confident. We will continue to provide updated information about these courses in our section on After Treatment Programmes.
Whilst your healthcare team should be there to offer help when needed, there are many other sources of information and support if you are keen to take some positive steps toward improving your lifestyle and general wellbeing. Living a healthy lifestyle can help your body recover and reduce the risk of your cancer returning.
Please go to our Health and Well Being section for more information.