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Life after treatment

Once your treatment has finished, you will have regular check-ups to monitor how you are recovering after treatment and to confirm that the cancer hasn’t come back. Ongoing surveillance for upper tract urothelial cancer involves a schedule of tests, scans, scopes and physical examinations. Let your doctor know immediately of any health problems between visits.

If your surgery has left you with only one kidney, you will need to limit the amount of salt and protein in your diet, avoid playing contact sport (such as football and boxing), avoid taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as aspirin and ibuprofen), and avoid dyes used in some imaging tests. Your doctor will discuss these issues with you.

Some cancer centres work with patients to develop a “survivorship care plan” which usually includes a summary of your treatment, sets out a clear schedule for follow-up care, lists any symptoms to watch out for and possible long-term side effects, identifies any medical or emotional problems that may develop and suggests ways to adopt a healthy lifestyle going forward. Maintaining a healthy body weight, 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.

Download our booklet ‘Living Well after Cancer’

For some people, cancer may come back at some stage after treatment. This is known as a recurrence. If you have had cancer of the ureter or renal pelvis, you may have an increased risk of developing a bladder cancer after a few years. If the cancer does come back, treatment will depend on where the cancer has returned 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 any symptoms, such as pain, and improving your quality of life without trying to cure the disease. This is called palliative treatment. Palliative care and treatment can be provided in the home, in a hospital, in a palliative care unit or hospice, or in a residential aged care facility. Services may vary because palliative care is different 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. 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.

Featured resources

Understanding Upper Tract Urothelial Cancer

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Understanding Rare and Less Common Cancers

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This information is reviewed by

This information was last reviewed February 2021 by the following expert content reviewers: the Australian and New Zealand Urogenital and Prostate (ANZUP) Cancer Trials Group Consumer Advisory Panel; Gregory Bock, Urology Cancer Nurse Coordinator, WA Cancer and Palliative Care Network, North Metropolitan Health Service, WA; Dr Tom Ferguson, Medical Oncologist, Fiona Stanley Hospital, Perth, WA; Prof Dickon Hayne, UWA Medical School, The University of Western Australia, and Head, Urology, South Metropolitan Health Service, WA; Steven Jones-Evans, Consumer; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Dr Carlo Yuen, Urologist, St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, NSW.