Even though you are done with your cancer treatment, you will still need regular medical check-ups as a survivor. That’s because some of the cancer treatments you received might raise your risk for health problems as you get older. Here is what you need to know to get the best possible care from the right kinds of healthcare providers.
What Kind of Care Will I Need?
You’ll need to assemble a healthcare team that includes several types of providers.
Long-term Follow-up Provider
Call your childhood cancer center or a cancer center that is near where you live to find out if they have a long-term follow-up program in which you can take part. You can also receive long-term follow-up care from a healthcare provider working in partnership with your treatment center.
Most survivors have long-term follow-up visits about once a year. During these visits your doctor will check for health problems that can arise as a result of your cancer treatment. These problems are called “late effects.” Although few survivors have serious late effects, it’s important to check for them so that they can be caught early should they occur.
Primary Care Doctor
Long-term follow-up programs are not designed to meet your everyday healthcare needs. That’s why you need a local healthcare provider to call or visit if you are hurt or sick. Ask friends and family members to help you find a nearby doctor who is thorough, well trained, and a good listener.
Make an appointment with this doctor for a general check-up and to talk about your medical history and health risks. It’s best to have this visit when you are well, not when you are being seen for an illness. Be sure to tell your doctor that the Children’s Oncology Group has a set of healthcare screening and management guidelines for providers who care for childhood cancer survivors, at www.survivorshipguidelines.org.
If at any point you have a health problem related to your cancer or treatment, your doctor can discuss it with your long-term follow-up team.
Dentist and Other Providers
Ask your primary care doctor who else should be on your medical team. In addition to a dentist, you might need other providers such as a physical therapist or psychologist.
What Information Will My Healthcare Team Need?
It’s important for you and your healthcare providers to know the details of your cancer and its treatment. To this end, ask your treatment center or hospital to send copies of your treatment records to all of your new healthcare providers. Also, ask for a summary of the cancer treatment that you received, known as a Summary of Cancer Treatment. Make a copy of the summary for yourself and give copies to each of your healthcare providers.
What Can I Expect From My Medical Team?
After you have shared your summary of cancer treatment with your medical team, you can expect that they will:
- provide routine care that is typical for their specialty (such as having a cavity filled by a dentist or having therapy with a psychologist);
- check periodically for health problems related to your childhood cancer; and
- advise you about things that you should or shouldn’t do to stay healthy.