Follow-up care after cancer treatment

When your treatment is finished, you will need regular check-ups. Depending on the type of cancer that you have had, your check-ups may continue for several years.
Regular check-ups are important:
  • Check-ups allow your doctor to check on how you are feeling and help with any side-effects you may have  
  • Your doctor will do regular reviews, including some tests, and check that you are still free of cancer 
  • Regular check-ups mean that any side-effects or illness can be found and treated sooner rather than later 

How often will I have check-ups? 

As a general rule, you will probably see your hospital doctor every 3 to 6 months for the first year. Afterwards you may have appointments every 6 months or once a year. Your follow-up plan will vary depending on the type of cancer you have had and the hospital you are attending.
If you have a symptom or problem that worries you between your follow-up appointments, let your doctor know. You can call your GP, nurse specialist or consultant. You don’t need to wait until your next appointment. 

TIP: Write down contact details for your nurse specialist and hospital consultant in case you have a question or worry.

Your first follow-up appointment

At your first follow up appointment, ask your doctor what to expect from your follow-up care. Questions you may want to ask include:
  • How often will my follow-up appointments be?
  • What tests will I be having at my follow-up appointments?
  • What should I do or who should I contact if I have any symptoms or concerns? 
  • Get phone numbers and find out when are the best times to contact a member of the team
  • Will my GP be involved in my follow-up care?
  • What symptoms should I be looking out for? 
  • How long will I be on current medications, for example hormonal therapy?
Feel free to talk to your doctor about any concerns you have even if he or she does not ask you directly.
  • Tell your doctor exactly how you feel and the short- or long-term side-effects that you may be experiencing. 
  • Ask how to best manage these side-effects. 
If you need help from other health care professionals such as a physiotherapist, dietitian or nurse specialist in managing some of the side-effects of your treatment, your doctor can refer you. 

How might I feel about follow-up care?

Immediately after treatment finishes, you may feel a little isolated. It is important to seek support and to be aware of and understand your follow-up care plan. If you are not clear about your follow-up care, speak to your doctor.
You can also seek advice and support on our Cancer Nurseline 1800 200 700. 
You may have mixed feelings about your follow-up appointments and they may make you feel anxious, especially in the couple of weeks before they are due. 

Will my cancer come back? 

You may have thoughts about the cancer coming back. This is normal and can be very frightening.  There is more information about coping with these fears and anxieties in our section on coping with feelings. You may worry that side-effects of your treatment may be a sign that your cancer has come back. This can be very distressing. Speak to your doctor if you are worried, but remember that side-effects like fatigue and pain after cancer treatment are very common and usually get better after a while.

Remember: If you are worried or notice any new symptoms between appointments, let your doctor know, especially if you have:

  • A pain that does not go away, usually in one place
  • New or unusual lumps or swelling
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea or loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • A fever or cough that does not go away
  • Unusual rashes, bruises or bleeding
  • Any other symptom you are concerned about
Remember that symptoms can be caused by other medical conditions that are not related to cancer. 

Call our Cancer Nurseline

Freephone 1800 200 700 to talk to a specialist cancer nurse
It's open Monday-Thursday from 9am to 6pm and Friday from 9am to 5pm
Date Last Reviewed: 
Friday, November 27, 2015