You've Made it Through Treatment. Now What?
For many women completing treatment can be a difficult time of transition.
If you're like most cancer survivors, you may face a range of issues—including emotional
and financial ones. You may also have questions about your overall health going
forward. Here are some suggestions for dealing with some of those issues.
Long-term effects: Some cancer treatments can have long-term side
effects. Going forward it's best to be prepared. Always discuss the treatment you've
had with your healthcare team and ask them about any potential long-term effects.
And, since a cancer diagnosis can be all-consuming, you may have had less time to
focus on other aspects of your general health during treatment. Talking to your
dentist about your dental health and to your general practitioner and gynecologist
at this point can help put your mind at ease.
Recurrence: Many cancer survivors have a fear of recurrence. This
is normal. Arming yourself with knowledge may help allay your fears. For example,
only about 1 in 5 breast cancer survivors who have completed therapy have a recurrence
within 10 years after their treatment. Knowing the facts and monitoring your health
regularly can help you deal with these fears. If fear of recurrence is causing you
undue anxiety, consider seeing a therapist to help you with your transition.
Financial issues: It's no secret that cancer treatment can be very
expensive. Medical costs and non-medical expenses, such as travel to and from treatment,
can have a major impact on one's life savings. But there are organizations that
Sexual concerns: Some cancers, especially breast cancer, can cause
more sexual concerns than others. But research shows that women with early stage
breast cancer often have a satisfying sex life within a year of their surgery. If
you enjoyed a healthy sex life before your cancer treatment, chances are you're
now ready to take up where you left off. Good communication can be the key to re-establishing
that former intimacy. Your partner may worry that physical closeness will hurt you.
Discussing issues like this will help. You may also find that intimacy can have
a new meaning after treatment. Hugging, touching, and cuddling may become even more
important than sexual intercourse itself.
Making the transition to life without cancer
Many women feel anxiety making the transition to life after cancer. It's important
to remember that this is a time to celebrate. According to the National Cancer Institute,
12 million people in the US have undergone cancer treatment and are alive today.
And that number is growing thanks to early detection and more treatment options.
Here are some other suggestions that could help you make the transition to life
Make a record of your cancer treatments: Chances are you have received
different treatments for cancer. And you probably saw several doctors and nurses.
It's easy to forget these details as you put cancer behind you. When you finish
treatment, sit with your doctor or nurse and complete a treatment journal. Having this information to share with
doctors in the future may be helpful.
Download a cancer treatment record
Work on relationships: The people who were there for you through
your cancer treatment are still there. However, the relationships may change a little.
Recognizing this and making allowances for subtle shifts in relationships is an
important part of transitioning to your new life. If sexual issues are a matter
of concern, consider seeing a counselor for a while.
Get finances in order: A diagnosis of cancer can leave you with
a large financial burden. To help keep you from being overwhelmed, try creating
a financial plan that spreads the burden over a longer period of time. If you're
not able to do this yourself, consider meeting with a financial advisor.
Plan for regular medical checkups: Anyone who has survived cancer
knows the importance of catching it in time. That's something to keep in mind going
forward. Plan on getting screened and tested regularly for the type of cancer you
had. And don't forget to get screened for other types of cancer as well.
Learn about acquiring skills for survivors