Care for people with cancer does not end when active treatment does. After cancer treatment ends, it is important to continue to see a health care team. They will look to see if the cancer has come back, manage any side effects, and monitor overall health.
Developing a follow-up care plan with a Cancer Coach
The health care team will work together to develop a personalized follow-up care plan. This plan will serve as a guide for monitoring health for the months and years that follow. The care plan will include regular physical examinations and tests. Some treatment centers are now providing cancer coaching, delivered by qualified experts in lifestyle, nutrition, exercise and well-being, to support and manage recovery using nutrition, exercise, stress management & emotional well-being, sleep, and home environment toxins.
Participating in follow-up care helps many survivors feel in control as they transition back into their everyday lives. Keeping a support system in place is essential for maintaining physical and emotional health.
Watching for recurrence
The goal of follow-up care is checking for a recurrence. Recurrent cancer is cancer that has come back after treatment. Cancer recurs because small areas of cancer cells may remain undetected in the body. These cells may increase in number until they show up on test results or cause signs or symptoms.
Unfortunately, it is impossible for doctors to predict who will experience a recurrence. But a Cancer Coach familiar with the medical history can give more personalized information about the risk of recurrence. He or she can also suggest ways to minimize this risk.
Detoxing, reducing inflammation and building up an immune system
During treatment, patients are likely to be left with a better cancer prognosis but at the expense of compromising the rest of the body.
A Cancer Coach, working with the primary health care team can guide survivors through a safe and effective detoxification, eliminating toxins that may still be circulating after treatment.
Chronic inflammation not only increases the risk of cancer recurrence but is also associated with many other aggravating chronic diseases. Many survivors develop other health conditions after cancer treatment because of the systemic, chronic inflammation. A Cancer Coach will create a holistic health plan the works by dramatically reducing inflammation and by doing so, reducing the risk of the cancer coming back and/or developing other serious chronic conditions.
A balanced and active immune system is the body’s best defense against cancer recurrence. During treatment, the immune system can be heavily damaged and compromised with many complications resulting from the actual treatment, not the cancer itself. Boosting the immune system can be just as damaging as leaving it compromised, leaving the body open to many auto-immune conditions. The role of the Cancer Coach is to balance the immune system so that it is able to detect real threats and deal with them effectively.
Managing long-term and late side effects
Most people expect to experience side effects while receiving treatment. But it is often surprising to survivors that some side effects may linger beyond the treatment period. These are called long-term side effects. Other side effects called late effects may develop months or even years after cancer treatment ends. Long-term and late effects can include physical and emotional changes.
The role of the Cancer Coach is to reduce all side effects, both long-term and late. This risk of developing and the severity of will depend on the type of cancer, the treatment plan, and overall health. If a treatment is known to cause specific late effects, the doctor may recommend certain tests and the Cancer Coach can develop health plans around the results. Examples of these tests include:
Thyroid examinations for people who had radiation therapy to the head, neck, or throat.
Lung function tests for people who received bleomycin (Blenoxane) or a bone marrow/stem cell transplant. These show how much air your lungs can hold and how quickly air moves in and out of your lungs.
Regular electrocardiograms (EKGs) for people who received radiation therapy to the chest and/or received high doses of a class of drugs called anthracyclines. Anthracyclines include doxorubicin (Adriamycin) or other chemotherapy known to affect heart functioning.
Regular mammography starting at an early age for women who had radiation therapy to the chest while they were young.
Periodic imaging tests, such as x-rays or computed tomography (CT) scans, or blood tests to watch for a second cancer.
It is important to talk with the doctor about appropriate tests based on the cancer history.
Questions to ask the health care team
Consider asking the health care team these questions about follow-up care:
What is the risk of the cancer returning?
Are there signs and symptoms I should watch for?
What should I do if I notice one of these symptoms?
What long-term side effects or late effects are possible based on the cancer treatment I received?
Who will be coordinating my follow-up care?
Does he or she have experience with cancer survivors?
How often should I return for a follow-up visit?
What tests will I need when I go for my follow-up visits?
What screening tests do you recommend based on the treatments I had?
How long will I need to continue getting screening tests?
Do I need to take any special medications or follow a special diet?
Do I need to be referred to a specialist?
What can I do to lower my risk of the cancer coming back or developing a second cancer?
How can I get a treatment summary and survivorship care plan to keep in my personal records?
What survivorship support services are available to me? To my family?
Where to receive follow-up care
Oncologists are becoming more aware and supporting of the role a Cancer Coach plays in the post-treatment recovery stage. Visit www.thecancercoach.org to schedule a free consultation and review with a Cancer Coach