Here are some helpful questions and answers about follow-up appointments after you finish cancer treatment:
- What do post treatment check-ups involve?
- How often do I need check-ups?
- Who do I see for follow-up care?
During check-ups your doctor may:
- assess your recovery
- ask how you’re feeling and coping with life after cancer
- monitor and treat any ongoing side effects
- talk to you about any late treatment side effects to watch out for
- look for any signs that the cancer may be coming back
- check any new symptoms
- do a physical examination
- ask if you have any concerns or questions
- discuss your general health and give healthy lifestyle advice
- outline how the cancer and its treatment might interact with any other health problems
- refer you to other health professionals and services, as necessary (such as a dietitian, psychologist or physiotherapist).
If you are on maintenance treatment (e.g. hormone therapy for breast or prostate cancer), talk to your treating team about how long the therapy will continue and any side effects to look out for.
Some people may need blood tests and scans, e.g. mammograms for women treated for breast cancer or prostate specific antigen (PSA) tests for men treated for prostate cancer. Not everyone will need or benefit from ongoing tests and scans.
It is important to be honest with your doctors so that they can help you manage any problems you may be having. For example, tell them if you feel low in mood or energy.
The frequency of your check-ups will depend on the type of cancer and treatment you had, and your general health. Some people have check-ups every 3–6 months for the first few years after treatment, then less often after that. Talk to your doctors about what to expect and ask if Australian guidelines or optimal care pathways exist for your follow-up care.
If you are worried or notice any new symptoms between appointments, contact your GP right away. Don’t wait until your next booked appointment with the specialist.
You may have follow-up appointments with your specialist, GP or a combination of both. Often, your GP will provide your primary follow-up care, and liaise with specialists if needed.
If you continue to see your specialist, you will still need to see your GP or specialist nurse to monitor your overall health, e.g. your blood pressure, cholesterol levels and weight. You may also need to see other allied health professionals such as a dietitian, psychologist, physiotherapist or exercise physiologist.