Follow-up after treatment for soft tissue sarcoma
Follow-up after treatment is an important part of cancer care. Follow-up care is usually done by the specialized healthcare team at the soft tissue sarcoma clinic. This team includes the cancer specialists (surgical, medical and radiation oncologists) and your family doctor. Your healthcare team will work with you to decide on follow-up care to meet your needs.
Don’t wait until your next scheduled appointment to report any new symptoms and symptoms that don’t go away. Tell your healthcare team if you have:
- any new lump or swelling
- pain or an increase in pain
The chance of soft tissue sarcoma recurring is greatest within 2 years, so close follow-up is needed during this time. About two-thirds of all soft tissue sarcoma recurrences occur during this time. High-grade, larger tumours and retroperitoneal tumours have a higher risk of recurrence.
Schedule for follow-up visits
Follow-up visits for soft tissue sarcoma are usually scheduled:
- every 3–6 months for the first 2 years after treatment
- every 6–12 months for the next 3 years
- then once a year until 10 years
During follow-up visits
During a follow-up visit, your healthcare team will usually ask questions about the side effects of treatment and how you’re coping. They will also ask if any new symptoms have appeared.
Your doctor may do a physical exam, including:
- examining the area from where the primary tumour was removed
- listening to the lungs
- examining the abdomen
Your doctor may also send you for imaging tests as part of your follow-up care. A CT scan or an MRI of the area from where the primary tumour was removed may be done 3–6 months after treatment. This test is used to create a baseline image for superficial low-grade tumours. It may also be done for deeper, high-grade tumours or tumours in the chest, abdomen or pelvis. For these locations, a CT scan or an MRI may be done every 4 months for the first 2 years, every 8 months for the next 3 years, and then once a year after that. A CT scan of the chest or chest x-ray will be done on the same schedule to look for spread to the lungs.
If a recurrence is found, your healthcare team will assess you to determine the best treatment options.
Questions to ask about follow-up
To make the decisions that are right for you, ask your healthcare team questions about follow-up.
Making progress in the cancer fight
The 5-year cancer survival rate has increased from 25% in the 1940s to 60% today.