What happens after treatment for lymphoma of the skin?
For some people with skin lymphoma, treatment may 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 the lymphoma growing or 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, gives more detailed information on this.
For many people, the lymphoma may never go away completely. These people may get regular treatments with chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or other therapies to help keep the lymphoma in check for as long as possible. Learning to live with lymphoma as more of a chronic disease can be difficult and very stressful. It has its own type of uncertainty.
Whether you have completed treatment or are still being treated, your doctors will still want to watch you closely with regular physical exams, blood tests, and possibly imaging tests. It is very important to keep all of your follow-up appointments.
You may need to have frequent blood tests to monitor your bone marrow function, to check that you have recovered from treatment, and to look for possible signs of disease recurrence. Rarely, blood cell counts can become abnormal as a long-term side effect of chemotherapy. If chemo damages the bone marrow, a disease called myelodysplasia can occur. In some cases this may even lead to acute leukemia.
The choice of other tests depends on the type, location, and extent of your lymphoma. If lymph nodes or other organs are affected, CT scans may be used to measure the size of any remaining tumor masses. PET scans may be done if your doctors aren’t sure if an abnormal area on a CT scan is an active lymphoma or scar tissue.
Almost any cancer treatment can have side effects. Some may last for a few weeks to several months, but others can be permanent. Tell your cancer care team about any symptoms or side effects that bother you so they can help you manage them.
If the lymphoma does come back at some point, further treatment will depend on where it recurs, what treatments you’ve had before, how long it’s been since treatment, and your overall health. For more information, see the section “What if the lymphoma keeps growing or comes back after treatment?” For more general information on dealing with a recurrence, you may also want to see our document When Your Cancer Comes Back: Cancer Recurrence.
Seeing a new doctor
At some point after your cancer diagnosis and treatment, you may find yourself seeing a new doctor who does not know anything about your medical history. It is important that you 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:
- A copy of your pathology report(s) from any biopsies or surgeries
- Copies of imaging tests (CT or MRI scans, etc.) or photographs, which can usually be stored on a CD, DVD, etc.
- If you had surgery, a copy of your operative report(s)
- If you stayed in the hospital, a copy of the discharge summary that doctors prepare when patients are sent home
- If you had targeted therapy or chemotherapy, a list of the drugs, drug doses, and when you took them
- If you had radiation therapy, a summary of the type and dose of radiation and when and where it was given
It is also 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.
Last Medical Review: 03/14/2013
Last Revised: 02/11/2014