What happens after treatment for bile duct cancer?
For some people with bile duct cancer, treatment can remove or destroy the cancer. Completing treatment can be both stressful and exciting. You may be relieved to finish treatment, but find it hard not to worry about 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 may 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 living full lives. Our document Living With Uncertainty: The Fear of Cancer Recurrence talks more about this.
For other people, the cancer may never go away completely. These people may get regular treatments with chemotherapy (chemo), radiation therapy, or other therapies to try to help keep the cancer under control and help relieve symptoms from it. 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.
If you have completed treatment, your doctors will still want to watch you closely. It’s very important to go to all of your follow-up appointments. During these visits, your doctors will ask questions about any problems you may have. They will examine you and may check lab tests or x-rays and scans to look for signs of cancer or treatment side effects.
Almost any cancer treatment can have side effects. Some may last for a few weeks to months, but others can last the rest of your life. Talk to your cancer care team about any changes or problems you notice and about any questions or concerns you have.
There is not set follow-up schedule for bile duct cancer that all doctors follow. Many doctors recommend blood and/or imaging tests about every 6 months for at least the first couple of years after treatment.
If cancer does recur, further treatment will depend on where the cancer is, what treatments you’ve had before, and your health. For more information on how recurrent cancer is treated, see the section “Treatment of bile duct cancer based on the situation.” For more general information on dealing with a recurrence, you may also want to see our document When Your Cancer Comes Back: Cancer Recurrence.
It is 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.
Seeing a new doctor
At some point after your treatment, you may be seeing a new doctor who doesn’t know anything about your medical history. It’s important to be able to give your new doctor the details of your diagnosis and treatment. Gathering these details 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(s) from any biopsies or surgeries
- If you had surgery, a copy of your operative report(s)
- Copies of x-rays and other imaging tests (these can often be stored digitally DVD, etc.)
- 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 therapy, a copy of the treatment summary
- If you had chemo or some other drug therapy, a list of your drugs, drug doses, and when you took them
- The names and contact information of the doctors who treated your cancer
Last Medical Review: 11/01/2014
Last Revised: 01/20/2016