Once you have finished your cancer treatment, you should receive a follow up cancer care plan. Follow-up care means seeing a doctor for regular medical checkups. Your follow-up care plan depends on the type of cancer and type of treatment you had, along with your overall health. It is usually different for each person who has been treated for cancer. In general, survivors usually return to the doctor every 3 to 4 months during the first 2 to 3 years after treatment, and once or twice a year after that. At these visits, your doctor will look for side effects from treatment and check if your cancer has returned (recurred) or spread (metastasized) to another part of your body.
At these visits, your doctor will:
- Review your medical history
- Give you a physical exam.
Your doctor may run follow-up tests such as:
- Blood tests
- MRI or CT scans. These scans take detailed pictures of areas inside the body at different angles.
- Endoscopy. This test uses a thin, lighted tube to examine the inside of the body.
Be sure to ask your oncologist for a written summary of your treatment. In the summary, he or she can suggest what aspects of your health need to be followed. Then, share this summary with any new doctors you see, especially your primary care doctor, as you discuss your follow-up care plan. Many people keep their medical records in a binder or folder and refer to them as they see new doctors. This keeps key facts about your cancer treatment in the same place. Other kinds of health information you should keep include:
- The date you were diagnosed
- The type of cancer you were treated for
- Pathology report(s) that describe the type and stage of cancer
- Places and dates of specific treatment, such as: • Details of all surgeries • Sites and total amounts of radiation therapy • Names and doses of chemotherapy and all other drugs
- Key lab reports, x-ray reports, CT scans, and MRI reports
- List of signs to watch for and possible long-term effects of treatment
- Contact information for all health professionals involved in your treatment and follow-up care
- Any problems that occurred during or after treatment
- Information about supportive care you received (such as special medicines, emotional support, and nutritional supplements)