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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.

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.

After treatment ends, you will have regular appointments 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 physical examination and you may have blood tests, x-rays or scans. You will also be able to discuss how you’re feeling and mention any concerns you may have.

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.

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.

For some people, primary liver cancer does come back after treatment, which is known as a recurrence. The cancer can come back in the liver, in nearby organs or in other parts of the body. This is why it’s important to have regular check-ups.

You may be offered more treatment which may include chemotherapy and surgery. Treatment will depend on the type of cancer you have, where it has spread, your general health and the treatments you have had before.

For many people with primary liver cancer the cancer cannot be cured. This can be frightening. Talking to your health care team can help you understand your situation. Palliative treatments may stop further cancer growth and allow you to continue doing the things you enjoy for several months or years. However, facing the fact that the cancer cannot be cured can be very distressing.

You can call Cancer Council 13 11 20 for support and information or talk to the social worker or spiritual care practitioner (such as a chaplain) at your hospital or treatment centre.