During and after treatment, and during treatment breaks, life goes on. You still need to check in with your primary care provider, your dentist and any other medical professionals involved with your health. Survivorship care plans can give you a structure to help you take care of your whole self.
Some of the best tools for Survivorship Care planning are offered online. You can even use them in partnership with your doctors. Some popular ones include:
Check out the Standards of Care for Cancer Survivors blog post by Nina Miller, MSSW, OSW-C, for more on the topic.
Questions to Ask About Your Survivorship Care Plan
- Who can help me create a full record of my treatment history to date?
- Which doctors should I see for which type of care?
- How often should I have routine visits?
- What’s my schedule for post-treatment follow up tests?
- What problems should I report to which doctor?
- What long-term and late effects can I expect from the treatment I received?
- What can I do to maintain my health and well-being?
- If I need accommodations at work, can you help me with that?
- Can you refer me to a support group or someone to talk to for my emotional health?
GAIN STRENGTH FROM OTHER SURVIVORS
It feels good to talk with and learn from others who share what you’re going through. When you talk to other survivors, you’ll quickly realize that you’re not alone. Look into:
- Support groups
- Online message boards, like Inspire
- Advocacy groups, like Fight Colorectal Cancer
GAIN A NEW PERSPECTIVE ON YOUR STRENGTH AND LIFE
It is not uncommon for cancer survivors to gain a different perspective on life after their diagnosis. Often, there’s a described search for meaning, or a reprioritization of things that are important in life. For some, these are surprisingly positive influences of cancer. While everyone has a different experience, some cancer survivors have described the following to be of importance:
- Do things that make you happy
- Spend more positive time with family, friends, and loved ones
- Seek a more meaningful job
- Volunteer to help others
- Become a colorectal cancer advocate
- Focus on your health: quit smoking, eat better, exercise more
- Tap into your fighting spirit
- Enjoy each moment
Research shows that a healthy lifestyle can decrease the risk of colorectal cancer coming back (recurrence). Components of a healthy lifestyle include:
- Healthy weight maintenance
- Staying physically active (30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity at least 5 days a week)
- Reducing alcohol use
- Quitting smoking
- Eating a healthy diet (low in red meat and processed foods) that emphasizes plant sources
- Limiting sun exposure
Talk with your doctor and partner with family or friends to help you stick to a healthy lifestyle.
Screening for Survivors
It’s important to continue to get screened after you’ve completed treatment, as colorectal cancer recurrence is most common within the first 5 years after treatment.
To learn more about post-treatment follow-up and stay up to date on screening recommendations, visit the USPSTF website.