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Life after treatment

For most women, the cancer experience doesn’t end on the last day of treatment. Life after cancer treatment can present its own challenges. You may have mixed feelings when treatment ends, and worry that every ache and pain means the cancer is coming back.

Some women say that they feel pressure to return to “normal life”. It is important to allow yourself time to adjust to the physical and emotional changes, and establish a new daily routine at your own pace. Your family and friends may also need time to adjust.

Cancer Council 13 11 20 can help you connect with other people who have had cancer, and provide you with information about the emotional and practical aspects of living well after cancer.

Download our booklet ‘Living Well after Cancer’

After treatment ends, you will have regular appointments with your specialists to monitor your health, manage any long-term side effects and check that the cancer hasn’t come back or spread. During these check-ups, you will usually have a pelvic examination and may have blood tests, x-rays and imaging scans. You can also discuss how you’re feeling and mention any concerns you may have.

Many women will have check-ups every 3−6 months for the first two years and then every 6 months for a few years after that. This may vary depending on the type and stage of the cancer, so check your follow-up plan with your specialists. Check-ups will become less frequent if you have no further problems. Between follow-up appointments, let your doctor know immediately of any symptoms or health problems.

When a follow-up appointment or test is approaching, many people find that they think more about the cancer and may feel anxious. Talk to your treatment team or call Cancer Council 13 11 20 if you are finding it hard to manage this anxiety.

For some women, uterine cancer does come back after treatment, which is known as a recurrence. This is why it’s important to have regular check-ups and to report symptoms (e.g. vaginal bleeding, pain in the abdomen, swelling, unexpected weight loss, unexplained cough) straightaway rather than waiting for your next appointment. Most uterine cancers that come back do so in the first three years after treatment. If the cancer does come back, you will usually be offered further treatment

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 can get a Medicare rebate for sessions with a psychologist. Ask your doctor if you are eligible.

Cancer Council SA offers a free counselling service, 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.

This information is reviewed by

This information was last reviewed March 2019 by the following expert content reviewers: A/Prof Alison Brand, Director, Gynaecological Oncology, Westmead Hospital, NSW; Kate Barber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Victoria; Prof Jonathan Carter, Director, Gynaecological Oncology, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW; Dr Robyn Cheuk, Senior Radiation Oncologist, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, QLD; Dr Alison Davis, Medical Oncologist, Canberra Region Cancer Centre, The Canberra Hospital, ACT; Kim Hobbs, Clinical Specialist Social Worker, Westmead Hospital, NSW; Nicole Kinnane, Nurse Coordinator, Gynaecology Oncology, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Jennifer Loveridge, Consumer; Pauline Tanner, Gynaecology Cancer Nurse Coordinator, WA Cancer & Palliative Care Network, North Metropolitan Health Service, WA.