Once your planned treatment for colon or rectal cancer is over you’ll probably have conflicting feelings. While it’s great not to have to sit in the infusion chair or deal with nausea or diarrhea, you may be unexpectedly sad, at loose ends, or frightened of what lies ahead. You may feel that you have been cut loose from the system that was supporting you with no idea of what will happen next.
There are things that you and your health team can do to ease your worries and increase your chances for long-term survival.
What You Need Before You Leave Treatment
Before you finish active treatment, make sure you have a survivorship plan in writing from your doctor that includes:
- A comprehensive care summary.
- A plan for follow up monitoring.
In addition, you need to have a plan for lifetime health and wellness
- What late effects of your treatment can you expect and how can you deal with them?
- What is healthy eating and exercising for you?
- How can you reduce risks for other new cancers?
- What needs to be done to stay healthy overall including strong heart and lungs?
- What are your needs for your job or health insurance?
- Where can you find emotional support?
- Are there advocacy opportunities where you can help others?
From Cancer Patient to Cancer Survivor: Lost in Transition
The transition from active treatment to post-treatment care is critical to long-term health. If care is not planned and coordinated, cancer survivors re left without knowledge of their heightened risks and a follow-up plan of action. However, such a plan is essential so that routine follow-up visits become opportunities to promote a healthy lifestyle, check for cancer recurrence, and manage lasting effects of the cancer experience.
Institute of Medicine
Where Can You Go for More Information
The National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship has an audio module in their Cancer Survivor Toolbox called Living Beyond Cancer. You can either listen to it online or download it. The module is about two hours long. You can also order a CD of the entire Toolbox.
The Institute of Medicine developed a comprehensive report From Cancer Patient to Cancer Survivor: Lost in Transition. You can read it free online, download the Executive Summary, or purchase a copy of the entire report.
A video of the IOM report is also helpful in understand needs of cancer survivors after their care is completed including survivor stories of cancer’s emotional impact.