Life after treatment
Once your treatment has finished, you will have regular check-ups including physical examinations and you may have further imaging 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 to watch out for and possible long-term side effects, identifies any medical or psychosocial problems that may develop and suggests ways to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Eating well and being physically active are all important.
If you don’t have a care plan, ask your specialist for a written summary of your cancer and treatment and make sure a copy is given to your GP and other health care providers.
For some people a low-grade NET can be successfully removed with surgery, and there is a good chance it won’t come back after treatment. However, regular check-ups will be needed over a long period. Unfortunately, NETs are difficult to treat and they can come back after treatment. This is known as a recurrence. If the cancer does come back, treatment will depend on where the cancer has returned to in your body and your symptoms.
For Merkel cell carcinoma, major breakthroughs recently in understanding the cancer and how to treat it make long-term survival possible.
In many cases of advanced NETs, treatment will focus on controlling the tumour, managing any 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. Services vary in each state and territory.
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. However, 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.
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.
This information is reviewed by
This information was last reviewed February 2021 by the following expert content reviewers: Dr David Chan, Medical Oncologist, Royal North Shore Hospital, NSW; Leslye Dunn, Consumer; Prof Gerald Fogarty, Radiation Oncologist, St Vincent’s Hospital, NSW; Katie Golden, Consumer; Dr Grace Kong, Nuclear Medicine Physician, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Elizabeth Paton, Melanoma and Skin Cancer Trials Group, NSW.