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Life after treatment

For most people, the cancer experience doesn’t end on the last day of treatment. Life after cancer 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 people 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’

Whether treatment ends or is ongoing, you will have regular appointments to monitor your health. During these check-ups, you will usually have a physical examination and you may have blood tests, x-rays or scans.

How often you will need to see your doctor will depend on the level of monitoring needed for the type and stage of the leukaemia. Between follow-up appointments, let your doctor know immediately of any health problems.

For some people, leukaemia does come back after treatment, which is known as a relapse or recurrence. It is important to have regular check-ups, so that if cancer does come back, it can be found early.

Leukaemia that has relapsed can still be treated, with the aim of causing remission or relieving symptoms. Treatment for recurrence usually includes further chemotherapy, targeted therapy and sometimes with radiation therapy. If the cancer is more advanced or aggressive, your doctor may recommend a stem cell transplant combined with high-dose chemotherapy.

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 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.

This information is reviewed by

This information was written and last reviewed in September 2020 by Cancer Council SA's experienced information team with support from national Cancer Council publications.