Cancer Survivorship 101

What is survivorship?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consider a person to be a cancer survivor from the time of diagnosis until the end of life.  With nearly 15 million cancer survivors in the US and over 1.5 million new cases diagnosed each year, cancer continues to affect almost every American, whether through a family member or their own experience.

Surviving cancer has physical, mental, emotional social and financial aspects that start with diagnosis and continue through treatment and beyond.  It also includes issues related to your ability to go to the doctor and follow-up treatment, side effects of treatment, the risk of getting cancer again, and your quality of life.  Family members, friends, and caregivers are a critical part of your experience of cancer.

A New Normal

The end of cancer treatment is often a time to rejoice.   You may be ready to put your experience behind you and have life return to the way it used to be.  Yet at the same time, you may feel sad and worried.  It can take time to recover.  It’s often considered adjusting to your “new normal”.   Whatever your new normal is, give yourself time to adapt to the changes in your life.  

In addition to feeling joy, you may feel fear or anxiety.  It is normal to fear a cancer recurrence, but you can talk to your health care team to let them know your concerns.   Focus on things that you can control:

Ways to help you relax

  • Talk to others
  • Exercise
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Write your feelings down
  • Seek comfort
  • Give back
  • Take part in clubs, classes or social gathers

Follow Up Care Plan

Once your treatment ends, you should receive a follow up cancer care plan from your oncologist or someone on your treatment team.  It is a set of recommendations for your cancer care after treatment ends.

Common questions after treatment ends:

  • How long will it take for me to get better and feel more like myself?
  • Which doctor(s) should I see for my follow-up care? How often?
  • What symptoms should I watch out for?
  • What tests do I need after treatment is over? How often will I have them?
  • What are long-term health issues I might expect as a result of my cancer treatment?
  • What is the chance that my cancer will return?
  • What records do I need to keep about my treatment?
  • What can I do to take care of myself and be as healthy as possible?
  • Can you suggest a support group that might help me?

Dealing with cancer is a life-changing event for most people.  Maine Cancer Foundation recognizes that as survivors, you deserve to know that we are fighting to reduce the impact of cancer in the state for you and everyone else.  Since 2015, we have granted over $7 million to the most promising and effective cancer prevention, screening and access programs in Maine.

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