Life after cancer treatment
During treatment, you were probably so busy just getting through each day that it was hard to imagine that treatment would ever end. Now that it has, you may be surprised by mixed feelings. You may find that you feel glad, excited and anxious all at the same time. While you’re happy to be done treatment, it’s normal to be concerned about what the future holds. Many people find the time after treatment to be a period of transition and adjustment – and much more of a challenge than they expected. As you adjust, be kind to yourself. Don’t expect to feel good about everything. Go slowly and give yourself time to come to terms with all you’ve been through.
What’s in a name?
Being a “cancer survivor” means different things to different people. One way of defining a cancer survivor is anyone who:
- has finished and is recovering from their active cancer treatment
- is on maintenance therapy
- is having ongoing treatment for cancer that is stable and slow growing
- is on active surveillance
- is in remission
Some people don’t like the way the word “survivor” is used or feel that it doesn’t apply to them. And that’s fine. For others, the word helps describe that they’ve gone through a particular experience. They find it empowering and a positive way of describing themselves.
Treatment given after the first-line therapy (the first or standard treatment) to keep a disease (such as cancer) under control or to prevent it from coming back (recurring). It may be given for a long period of time.
Maintenance therapy may include drugs, vaccines, antibodies or hormones.
Treatment that uses regular and frequent tests to closely watch a slow-growing cancer. The goal of active surveillance is to help keep a good quality of life while delaying other treatments that can cause side effects for as long as possible. When test results show that the cancer is getting worse, treatments such as surgery or chemotherapy are offered.
A decrease in or the disappearance of signs and symptoms of a disease (such as cancer).
Complete remission means the disappearance of all signs or symptoms. Partial remission means a decrease in or disappearance of some, but not all, signs and symptoms. Spontaneous remission is an unexpected improvement that occurs with little or no treatment.
Great progress has been made
Some cancers, such as thyroid and testicular, have survival rates of over 90%. Other cancers, such as pancreatic, brain and esophageal, continue to have very low survival rates.