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After chemotherapy

Recovery after chemotherapy depends on:

  • the amount and type of chemotherapy given
  • the person’s general health
  • how the person tolerates chemotherapy
  • the side effects experienced

The healthcare team will give instructions about any special precautions or restrictions that you need to take after chemotherapy treatment, such as what to eat or drink and when you can do physical activity or return to work. Some people may find they need extra rest for a while after treatment is finished.

People should talk to their healthcare team about when it is safe to have sex, any special precautions that they may need to take and how long to continue them after treatment. Depending on a person’s age and situation, it may be important to use a reliable method of birth control during treatment. The healthcare team will discuss birth control methods that can be used.

Chemotherapy can weaken a person’s immune system. During and for some time after treatment, chemotherapy can affect blood cells that help protect the body from illness, infection or excessive bleeding. Therefore, it is important to report the following symptoms to the doctor or healthcare team:

  • fever over 38°C
  • chills
  • prolonged diarrhea
  • prolonged vomiting
  • burning feeling when urinating
  • severe cough or shortness of breath
  • bleeding or unexplained bruising
  • rash or signs of a possible allergic reaction, such as swelling, severe itching or wheezing


Follow-up appointments are usually scheduled after chemotherapy is finished to:

  • see how the person’s cancer responds to chemotherapy
  • discuss ways to lessen or treat side effects, if they occur
  • discuss further treatment options, if needed


Follow-up is different for each person. How often follow-up needs to be done varies with the type of cancer and is tailored to each person’s needs. More frequent visits may be scheduled at first, but fewer follow-up visits are needed as time goes on.


Follow-up tests may be done, depending on the type of cancer and symptoms that are present. Tests may include:

  • a physical examination
  • lab tests
  • imaging tests


Photo of Pat Hartley It didn’t matter how much experience and knowledge I had about cancer. I was in shock.

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Nearly 1 in 2 Canadians is expected to be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.

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