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Life after treatment

Once your treatment has finished, you will have regular check-ups to confirm that the cancer hasn’t come back. Ongoing surveillance for ACC involves a schedule of ongoing blood tests and scans. Let your doctor know immediately of any health problems between visits.

Some cancer centres work with patients to develop a “survivorship care plan” which includes a summary of your treatment, sets out a schedule for follow-up care, lists any symptoms and long-term side effects to watch out for, identifies any medical or emotional problems that may develop and suggests ways to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Maintaining a healthy body weight, eating well and being active are all important. If you don’t have a care plan ask your specialist for one and make sure a copy is given to your GP and other health care providers.

Download our booklet ‘Living Well after Cancer’

For some people ACC does come back after treatment, which is known as a recurrence. It may also spread to other parts of the body after a couple of years. If the cancer does come back, treatment will depend on where the cancer has returned to in your body and may include a mix of surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. In some cases of advanced cancer, treatment will focus on managing symptoms, such as pain, and improving your quality of life without trying to cure the disease. This is called palliative treatment. Palliative care can be provided in the home, in a hospital, in a palliative care unit or hospice, or in a residential aged care facility.

When cancer is no longer responding to active treatment, it can be difficult to think about how and where you want to be cared for towards the end of life. But it’s essential to talk about what you want with your family and health professionals, so they know what is important to you. Your palliative care team can support you in having these conversations.

Download our booklet ‘Living with Advanced Cancer’

Download our booklet ‘Understanding Palliative Care’

If you have continued feelings of sadness, have trouble getting up in the morning or have lost motivation to do things that previously gave you pleasure, you may be experiencing depression. This is quite common among people who have had cancer.

Talk to your GP, as counselling or medication—even for a short time—may help. Some people are able to get a Medicare rebate for sessions with a psychologist. Ask your doctor if you are eligible. Cancer Council SA operates a free cancer counselling program. Call Cancer Council 13 11 20 for more information.

For information about coping with depression and anxiety, call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or visit beyondblue.org.au. For 24-hour crisis support, call Lifeline 13 11 14 or visit lifeline.org.au.

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This information is reviewed by

This information was last reviewed February 2021 by the following expert content reviewers: A/Prof Dion Forstner, Radiation Oncologist, St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, NSW; Nick Kelly, Consumer; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA.