Completing treatment for cancer is an accomplishment. After thinking about cancer every waking moment during treatment, you need to resolve a few issues as you begin to recover physically and move on with your life. First and foremost, establish an effective post-treatment follow-up strategy with your Northwest Georgia Oncology Centers (NGOC) team to help you cope and feel comfortable with the management of any long-term physical side effects. A post-treatment strategy also may help facilitate early identification of cancer recurrence when it is most treatable and identify resources to assist with any lingering emotional or financial issues.
Follow-up care is necessary to manage treatment complications and to detect potential cancer recurrence early, when it is most treatable. Discuss your post-treatment strategy in detail with your NGOC cancer care team to determine your follow-up schedule. Also, find out if your post-treatment strategy includes periodic tests. For example, your follow-up care may require periodic CT scans, MRIs or X-rays to monitor and note any suspicious changes. Similarly, if your disease is associated with a blood marker, you may have periodic blood tests to monitor blood marker levels. In addition to periodic tests, you may want to discuss your prognosis as well as symptoms of recurrence that are cause for further follow-up. Also, make sure that you have established a way to contact your doctor or nurse as additional questions and concerns arise.
Long-Term Side Effects
Long-term side effects from treatment may be minor or imposing. Understanding what side effects may occur and determining the best way to manage these side effects on a permanent basis is important. For example, if the surgical treatment of your disease has left you physically challenged, your follow-up care may require a referral to a physical therapist. Or, if you have had a lymph node dissection, the management or prevention of lymphedema may best be handled by someone other than your surgeon.
Post-Treatment Financial Issues
Cost of treatment may impose an ongoing financial stress and burden. Post-treatment financial issues may include insurance disputes, as well as debt incurred from out of pocket expenses or an inability to work during treatment. NGOC and patient advocate organizations offer valuable information to help patients with these issues.
After completing cancer treatment, you may feel elated and relieved as you recover and side effects diminish. Although your life may return to normal, the unknown and the statistics may still weigh on your mind from time to time. To cope with emotional issues, you may wish to seek professional support, family support, as well as emotional support from other patients with your disease. Patients recommend reading other patient stories, telling your story and researching breaking news concerning your disease. These processes have been facilitated by the proliferation of disease specific websites, bulletin boards and chat rooms. Patients also indicate that community support groups like Loving Arms are a valuable resource for emotional support. Acknowledging your experience through these outlets may provide some sense of relief and validation.
You may know have the emotional and physical bandwidth to participate in cancer advocacy programs like the Georgia Chapter of the Community Oncology Alliance Patient Advocacy Network (CPAN). NGOC oncologists, nurses and patients lobby together in support of legislative policies assisting cancer patients and their local cancer centers. We are fighting to maintain access to cancer care since many community-based cancer centers are closing their doors due to shifting public policy, including reimbursement cuts for chemotherapy, drugs and financial aid. By joining CPAN, you are joining a national, growing movement for cancer care and making your voice heard by sharing your experiences and educating others about the importance of preserving and protecting patient access to cancer care in community-based oncology centers like NGOC.