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AmMed Cancer Center > Patient Support Group > Survivorship Guide

Survivorship Guide

The Survivorship Guide addresses questions you may have after cancer treatment.

When am I considered a cancer survivor?

The term "cancer survivor" means different things to different people. For some, the term refers to anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer; others consider a cancer survivor to be anyone who has completed active treatment and is free of any signs of disease.

For the purpose of AmMed Cancer Center survivorship services, the transition from cancer patient to cancer survivor occurs after completion of your active treatment at a time designated by your physician. During the survivorship phase, you will still require careful monitoring of your health status and management of ongoing and late effects of cancer treatment.

Nutrition Counseling

Registered dietitians provide counseling and education about diets for the promotion of good health and cancer prevention.

Nutrition is a major concern for patients with cancer who may be faced with issues related to proper diets, weight management, and possible changes in appetite and taste. Patients of AmMed Cancer Center can request a personal nutritional consultation with one of our certified dietition-nutritionists who will be able to assess a patient's current eating habits and provide advice on how to evaluate various diets.

How does being a cancer survivor have an impact on my health?

Cancer survivors have a variety of post-treatment health experiences. Although most survivors feel well, ongoing side effects -- called long-term effects -- linger in some people. Other survivors develop late effects, which are new side effects that arise months or years after the completion of treatment.

Long-term and late effects can result from any of the main types of cancer therapy: surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and hormonal therapy. Examples of some documented long-term and late effects are shown in the tables below. Not every cancer survivor experiences long-term or late side effects. If you are having health problems, it is important to discuss your symptoms with your doctor or nurse.

What should my medical follow-up be once my cancer treatment is finished?

At the completion of your cancer treatment, AmMed will provide the medical guidance for your care as you transition to living beyond cancer.

At AmMed Cancer Center, It is most likely include follow-up visits with your doctor during the first years after cancer treatment. Communication between your doctors is a priority so that information about post-treatment issues can be incorporated into your overall medical plan.

Below are resources to guide clinicians and cancer patients in creating cancer treatment summary and follow-up plans.

AmMed Cancer Center

* Treatment Summary:
* surgery
* chemotherapy/biotherapy
* radiation therapy

Follow-up Plan visit schedule testing schedule cancer screening health behavior recommendations 

What types of follow-up tests might I need?

Your doctor will have you undergo specific tests to check for any signs of cancer depending on your individual diagnosis and treatment plan. These tests may be performed at every doctor visit or less frequently. Be sure to ask your doctor for the specifics of your follow-up care plan.

Follow-up Assessments

Physical Exam

An examination of various parts of the body to identify any abnormalities or general signs of disease.

Laboratory Tests

Laboratory tests involve testing a sample of blood, urine, or other body fluids to learn or confirm what is happening in the body. The most common lab tests include tumor markers, blood chemistries, and a complete blood count.

X-ray

In low doses, x-rays are used to diagnose diseases by making pictures of the inside of the body.

Computerized Tomography (CT)

A procedure that uses special x-ray equipment to obtain cross-sectional pictures of the body, including detailed images of organs, bones, and other tissues. The CT scan can detect or confirm the presence of a tumor.

Positron Emission Tomography/Computerized Tomography (PET/CT)

Combination PET/CT shows both the location and the metabolic signal of actively growing cancer cells if a tumor should arise. If the PET/CT study indicates a recurrence, your doctor may order a separate CT study for precise information about the location of the tumor.

Ultrasound

A procedure in which high-energy sound waves are bounced off internal tissues or organs and make echoes. The echo patterns are shown on the screen of an ultrasound machine, forming a picture of body tissues called a sonogram. Ultrasound is helpful in diagnosing cancer found in the soft tissue.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

A procedure in which radio waves and a powerful magnet linked to a computer is used to create detailed pictures of areas inside the body. These pictures can show the difference between healthy and diseased tissue. MRI makes better images of organs and soft tissue than other scanning techniques, such as CTs or x-rays. MRI is especially useful for imaging the brain, spine, the soft tissue of joints, and the inside of bones.

Where can I learn more about cancer recurrence?

The uncertainty associated with wondering if or when your cancer will ever return can be frustrating. Risk of cancer recurrence differs by type of cancer, stage at diagnosis, treatment method, elapsed time since treatment, and other environmental factors that are still being uncovered. We advise you to discuss your personal risk of cancer recurrence with your doctor or nurse practitioner.

What are the signs that the cancer might be returning?

A set of precise indicators that one might feel when cancer is returning does not exist. Symptoms, such as lumps or pain, will vary depending on how the cancer develops. In some cases, patients will not feel or see any signs. Therefore, maintaining follow-up visits with your doctor or nurse is vital for assessing and discussing your health status.

Remember that every symptom you have will not be related to a cancer returning. However, it is important to communicate your symptoms to your care provider so that they can be evaluated.

Am I at risk for a new cancer?

Cancer survivors can have a higher risk of developing a second primary cancer as a result of their prior cancer treatment, environmental exposures, or genetics. Having all appropriate cancer screening tests done at the recommended intervals is an important step in the early detection of these cancers.

 Cancer Risk: Understanding the Puzzle

The National Cancer Institute offers online guidance on making informed decisions about lowering your risk.

What actions can I take to minimize my risk for a new cancer?

Researchers are beginning to understand how people can lower their risk of getting certain cancers. The following preventive actions may reduce your risk for developing another cancer:

Sun Protection

You can reduce your risk of getting skin cancer by protecting yourself from the sun's ultraviolet rays. Protect your skin from direct sunlight by wearing protective clothing, applying sunscreen, or seeking shade. Also, avoid sunlamps and tanning booths.

 Diet and Exercise

Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and exercising 30 minutes daily does not guarantee that cancer will not return. However, improving the way you eat, exercise, and live your life can help you feel better and may also lower your chances of developing other health problems.

For more information on nutrition, visit Nutrition Resources.

Chemoprevention
Chemoprevention is the use of specific natural or man-made drugs, vitamins, or other agents to reverse, suppress, or prevent cancer growth. Many agents are being evaluated for their usefulness. Please discuss the specific product you wish to use in advance with your doctor or nurse.

Survivor Stories