On this page: Your treatment summary | Common questions | Managing anxiety before check-ups | Key points
After your treatment has finished, you will be advised about
regular check-ups. These will allow your doctor to monitor your
health and wellbeing. Follow-up care differs depending on the
type of cancer and treatment and the side effects experienced.
Many treatment centres now work with people as they approach
the end of their treatment to develop survivorship care plans.
These care plans are designed to set out a clear schedule for
follow-up care and ensure that any medical and psychosocial
problems which may develop after treatment are identified
and managed. For more information or to develop your own
survivorship care plan, visit www.livestrongcareplan.org or
Your treatment summary
Ask your surgeon or oncologist for a written summary of your
cancer type, treatment and plans for follow-up care. A copy should
be given to your GP and other health care providers.
This summary should include the following information:
- cancer type
- date of diagnosis
- diagnostic tests results and pathology results, including cancer
stage and grade, and tumour marker information
- full treatment details
- symptoms to watch for and possible long-term side effects
- contact details for the health professionals involved in your
treatment and follow-up care.
What do post treatment check-ups involve?
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
- look for any signs that the cancer may be coming back
- investigate any new symptoms
- perform a physical examination
- ask if you have any concerns or questions
- discuss your general health and give healthy lifestyle
advice refer you to other health professionals
and services, as necessary (such as a dietitian,
Blood tests and scans may be required, e.g. mammograms
for women treated for breast cancer and Prostate-Specific
Antigen (PSA) tests for men treated for prostate cancer. Not
everyone will require or benefit from ongoing tests.
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.
If you see a news story about cancer and you want to know if this
research or information could be relevant to you, note down some
of the details and ask your doctor about it at your next check-up.
How often do I need check-ups?
The frequency of check-ups depends 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 exist for your follow-up care.
If you are worried or notice any new symptoms between
appointments, contact your doctor right away. Don’t wait until
your next booked appointment.
Who do I see for follow-up care?
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. You will still
need to see your GP to monitor your overall health e.g. checking
your blood pressure, cholesterol levels and weight.
You may also need to see other allied health professionals such as
a psychologist/counsellor, oncology social worker, occupational
therapist, physiotherapist, exercise physiologist, dietitian, speech
pathologist or specialist nurse.
How can I prepare for check-ups?
It may help to write down any questions you have and take
this list with you to your appointment (see the list of suggested
questions). If your doctor uses medical terms you don’t
understand, ask for them to explain in plain English. If you have
several questions or concerns, ask for a longer appointment when booking. Taking notes or making an audio recording during the
consultation can also help you to remember what was discussed.
Many people like to have a family member or friend go with them
for emotional support or to take part in the discussion. You may
wish to ask them to take notes or simply wait in the waiting room.
Tell your doctor or nurse if you have:
- difficulty doing everyday activities
- any new symptoms
- new aches or pains that seem unrelated to an injury, or usual
ones that have become worse
- changes in weight or appetite
- feelings of anxiety or depression
- other health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes
- new medications you are taking or other complementary or alternative treatments you are using.
You can also talk to your health care team about other issues. For
example, you may want to talk about changes to your sex life, how
cancer has affected your relationships, or practical issues such as
returning to work or financial difficulties.
You may want to ask about a referral to see an allied health
professional, such as a dietitian, psychologist, physiotherapist or
exercise physiologist. You should tell each health professional you
see about your cancer diagnosis and treatment, as this may affect
the treatment they give you.
Managing anxiety before check-ups
Many cancer survivors say they feel anxious before routine check-ups.
Anxiety, sleeping problems, poor appetite, mood swings and increased
aches and pains are common in the lead-up to an appointment.
You may feel anxious before check-ups because:
- you might fear that you’ll be told the cancer has come back
- going back to hospital brings back bad memories
- you feel vulnerable and fearful just when you were feeling more
- other people (friends or family) make comments that upset you.
You may find check-ups easier once you have had a few and things
are going okay.
In the meantime, finding ways to cope with your anxiety before
check-ups may help. You may find some of the coping strategies below helpful in easing your anxiety.
"You do get nervous and you tell yourself it's only a check-up – but it becomes this mountain. I have my scans on the Monday and see the doctor on the Wednesday, because I can't handle having to wait for the results any longer." — Georgina
Coping with check-ups
- Take a close friend or relative
with you to your check-ups.
- Share your fears with people
close to you.
- Plan to do something
special after your follow-up
- Try to see your check-ups
as a way of taking care of
and protecting yourself. If
problems are picked up early
they may be easier to treat.
- Learn mindfulness and
meditation skills, or practise
- Book the first appointment
of the day or plan another
activity beforehand so you are
busy and don’t have time to
dwell on the appointment.
- Stay informed about any
new treatments for the type
of cancer you had. This may
help you feel more optimistic.
- Ask if it is possible to see the
doctor elsewhere if you are
not comfortable going to the
hospital or treatment centre.
- Try to book tests close to your
next doctor’s appointment.
- Many cancer survivors say
they feel anxious before their
- Follow-up care is usually
different for each person
and depends on the type of
cancer and treatment you
had, and any long-term side
effects you are having.
- You may have a physical
examination, blood test and
scans as part of the checkup.
Although not everybody
- Having a clear follow-up plan
and asking your doctor what
to expect at your follow up
appointments may help you
feel less anxious.
- Ask your surgeon or
oncologist for a copy of your
treatment summary. This will
provide medical guidance
for your GP and other health
- Follow-up care may be
provided by your GP, the
doctor who first treated
your cancer or both.
Your GP can also help to
coordinate your care and
check your general health.
You may also want to see
other health professionals
such as a physiotherapist,
psychologist, dietitian or
specialist cancer nurse.
- It’s a good idea to work
with your treatment team
to develop a survivor
Reviewed by: A/Prof Jane Turner, Department of Psychiatry, University of Queensland;
Polly Baldwin, Cancer Council Nurse, Cancer Council South Australia; Ben Bravery, Cancer Survivor, NSW;
Helen Breen, Oncology Social Worker, Shoalhaven Cancer Services, NSW; A/Prof Michael Jefford, Consultant
Medical Oncologist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and Clinical Director, Australian Cancer Survivorship
Centre; David Larkin, Clinical Cancer Research Nurse, Canberra Region Cancer Centre; Miranda Park, Clinical
Nurse Specialist, Cancer Information and Support Service, Cancer Council Victoria; Merran Williams, Nurse,
Bloomhill Integrated Cancer Care, QLD; Iwa Yeung, Physiotherapist, Princess Alexandra Hospital, QLD;
Danny Youlden, Biostatistician, Viertel Cancer Research Centre, Cancer Council Queensland.