Moving on after treatment for anal cancer
For some people with anal cancer, treatment can remove or destroy the cancer. Completing treatment can be both stressful and exciting. You might be relieved to finish treatment but find it hard not to worry about the cancer coming back. (When cancer comes back after treatment, it is called recurrence.) This is a very common concern in people who have had cancer.
It could take a while before your fears lessen. But it may help to know that many cancer survivors have learned to live with this uncertainty and are leading full lives. Our document Living with Uncertainty: The Fear of Cancer Recurrence talks more about this.
For other people, the cancer might never go away completely. These people may get regular treatments with chemotherapy, radiation, or other treatments to help keep the cancer in check. Learning to live with cancer that does not go away can be difficult and very stressful. It has its own type of uncertainty. Our document When Cancer Doesn’t Go Away, talks more about this.
After your treatment is over, your follow-up appointments are very important. During these visits, your doctors will ask about symptoms, do physical exams, and order blood or imaging tests. Follow-up is needed to watch for treatment side effects and to check for cancer that has come back or spread.
Follow-up doctor visits after treatment may be scheduled as often as every 3 months for at least 2 years, and then possibly less often after this. During these visits, your doctor will ask about any symptoms you’re having and will do a physical exam. Blood tests and imaging tests such as CT scans may also be ordered.
Almost any cancer treatment can have side effects. Some may last for a few weeks or months, but others can last the rest of your life. Tell your cancer care team about any symptoms or side effects that bother you so they can help you manage them. Use this time to ask your health care team questions and discuss any concerns you might have.
It’s also very important to keep health insurance. Tests and doctor visits cost a lot, and even though no one wants to think of their cancer coming back, this could happen.
Should your cancer come back, treatment will depend on where it is, what treatments you’ve had before, and your overall health. For more on dealing with a recurrence, our document When Your Cancer Comes Back: Cancer Recurrence can help you manage and cope with this phase of your treatment.
For patients with colostomies
Permanent colostomies are rarely needed now in the treatment of anal cancer. But there are nurses and therapists with special training who can teach you how to take care of your colostomy if you have to have one. Ask the American Cancer Society about programs offering information and support in your area. For more on colostomies, see our document Colostomy: A Guide.
Seeing a new doctor
At some point after your cancer is found and treated, you might find yourself seeing a new doctor who does not know about your cancer. It’s important that you be able to give your new doctor the details of your diagnosis and treatment. Gathering these details during and soon after treatment may be easier than trying to get them at some point in the future. Make sure you have this information handy, and always keep copies for yourself:
- A copy of your pathology report from any biopsy or surgery
- If you had surgery, a copy of your operative report
- If you stayed in the hospital, a copy of the discharge summary that the doctor wrote when you were sent home
- If you had radiation treatment, a copy of the treatment summary
- If you had chemotherapy (or other drugs), a list of your drugs, drug doses, and when you took them
- Copies of your imaging tests (these can be put onto a DVD, etc.)
- The names and contact information of the doctors who treated your cancer
Last Medical Review: 06/10/2014
Last Revised: 01/20/2016