After treatment – follow-up care

After receiving treatment patients receive follow-up care. Cancer patients are monitored at regular intervals. Follow-up care varies according to the type of cancer and its distribution. Often, after treatment, patients are monitored for a while under specialised medical care, and then later are monitored under primary health care.

Follow-up care is needed to detect treatment side effects and the possible recurrence of cancer, as well as to ensure patients’ rehabilitation.

Rehabilitation

Follow-up cancer care includes the clinical examination of patients plus laboratory and imaging work. Examinations vary according to the cancer type, its distribution and treatment recommendations.

Additional tests are carried out based on your symptoms. This is why it is important that when you go for follow-up care you tell everything about your symptoms. Nursing staff will take into account to how you have recovered from the illness psychologically.

Life after cancer

The transition to follow-up care after treatment is often an anxious and uncertain time. Nursing staff will aim to support you and explain who to contact if needed.

The Cancer Society of Finland’s advice service also provides assistance.

Advice services

How frequent is follow-up care?

The frequency of follow-up cancer care varies with the disease. Frequent follow-up at 1 – 3 month intervals is recommended only in certain aggressive cancers.

The risk of cancer recurrence decreases with the length of time that has elapsed following diagnosis. On the other hand, some cancers, such as many breast cancers, may recur after years or even decades. There is no simple answer to the question of how long follow-up care should last. Patients are usually monitored regularly for about five years. After that, they receive follow-up care when needed.

Sometimes cancer becomes chronic, in which case cancer therapy and follow-up is planned on an individual basis.

Chronic cancer

The different forms of cancer treatment may also have late effects, such as a greater risk of heart conditions. It’s therefore important that patients can easily access health services and take part in screening programmes and health check ups.

 

Sources

Joensuu, Heikki; Jyrkkiö, Sirkku; Kellokumpu-Lehtinen, Pirkko-Liisa; Kouri, Mauri; Roberts, Peter J. & Teppo, Lyly (toim.) (2013) Syöpätaudit. Helsinki: Kustannus Oy Duodecim.

Suomen Syöpäpotilaat ry. Selviytyjän matkaopas. Helsinki, 2014.