What happens after treatment for malignant mesothelioma?
For some people with mesothelioma, 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 cancer 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 leading full lives. Our document, Living With Uncertainty: The Fear of Cancer Recurrence, gives more detailed information on this.
For many people, the mesothelioma may never go away completely. These people may get regular treatments with chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or other therapies to help keep the cancer in check. Learning to live with cancer that doesn’t go away can be difficult and very stressful. It has its own type of uncertainty.
If you have completed treatment, your doctors will still want to watch you closely. It is very important to keep all follow-up appointments. During these visits, your doctors will ask about symptoms, do physical exams, and may order blood tests (such as the osteopontin or MesoMark tests) or imaging tests such as CT scans or PET scans. There is no widely agreed upon follow-up schedule for people with mesothelioma. Your doctor will most likely want to see you fairly often (at least every couple of months or so) at first. The time between visits may be extended if there are no problems.
Follow-up is needed to check for cancer recurrence or spread, as well as possible side effects of certain treatments. This is the time for you to ask your health care team any questions you need answered and to discuss any concerns you might have.
Almost any cancer treatment can have side effects. Some may last for a few weeks to several months, but others can be permanent. Don’t hesitate to tell your cancer care team about any symptoms or side effects that bother you so they can help you manage them.
If the cancer does recur, further treatment will depend on the location of the cancer, what treatments you’ve had before, and your health. For more information on how recurrent cancer is treated, see the section “Treatment of mesothelioma based on the extent of the cancer.” For more general information on dealing with a recurrence, you may also want to our document, When Your Cancer Comes Back: Cancer Recurrence. You can get this document by calling 1-800-227-2345.
Keep your health insurance and copies of your medical records
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. Make sure you have the following information handy:
- A copy of your pathology report(s) from any biopsies or surgeries
- 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 radiation therapy, a summary of the type and dose of radiation and when and where it was given
- If you had chemotherapy, a list of your drugs, drug doses, and when you took them
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: 09/20/2012
Last Revised: 09/20/2012