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Your wellness plan
Many cancer survivors want to take the best care of their health that they can. Along with follow-up visits with your healthcare team, learning what you can do to live a healthy life after cancer can be a positive step forward. Living well can help you:
- regain or build strength and endurance
- deal with side effects like fatigue, weight loss or gain and sleep problems
- manage stress
- reduce the risk of developing a second cancer or other health problems
Just as your cancer treatment plan and experience were unique to you, your wellness plan will also be yours alone. Your healthcare team can help you develop a wellness plan that is tailored to your needs, preferences and fitness level. What’s important is that you understand your wellness plan and are comfortable with following it. It may include plans to:
- Eat well.
- Be physically active.
- Get help to quit smoking. Research has shown that cancer survivors who continue to smoke are at a higher risk of the cancer coming back (recurrence) or developing another cancer, either at the same site or in a different place in the body. This increased risk can last as long as 20 years after the first cancer has been successfully treated.
- Protect yourself from the sun.
A plan can make you feel better and more in control of your health, but it’s important to understand that following it doesn’t guarantee that cancer won’t come back. But you will be doing what you can to reduce your risk.
Going for follow-up visits
Going for follow-up visits is an important part of managing your healthcare after treatment.
Follow-up care allows your doctor to monitor your progress and recovery from treatment. It gives you an opportunity to talk to your healthcare team about any problems or concerns that you have about your health after treatment.
The schedule of visits is different for each person, and tests or procedures during follow-up are tailored to your situation. You may be seen more often in the first few years after your treatment, and then less often after that.
Many people say that they feel anxious before their appointments (especially the first one). You may be worried that even though you feel well, the cancer has returned. Or you may be worried about a new symptom. You might have an upset stomach or not sleep well the night before. To help you through the appointment:
- Take someone with you.
- Plan to do something special for yourself afterward.
- Try to look at the visit as positive. Follow-up care can give you peace of mind and increase the chances of anything unusual being caught early. It can also be a time to talk about your concerns with your doctor.
- Talk to your doctor about any new symptoms. If you notice any new symptoms, don’t ignore them. Call the doctor right away – you don’t have to wait until your next scheduled appointment.
- Always tell the healthcare team about any medicines, vitamins, herbs or different healing approaches that you may be using.
It is a good idea to keep a personal copy of your cancer treatment history. That way you have a record if you have to change doctors or you have a medical emergency.
Making progress in the cancer fight
The 5-year cancer survival rate has increased from 25% in the 1940s to 60% today.