What happens after treatment for prostate cancer?
For most men with prostate cancer, treatment may 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 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 accept this uncertainty and are living full lives. Our document Living With Uncertainty: The Fear of Cancer Recurrence talks more about this.
For other men, the cancer may return or may never go away completely. These men may get hormone treatment or other therapies to help keep the cancer in check for as long as possible. Learning to live with cancer as a chronic disease 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.
Even 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 and may do exams and lab tests or imaging tests to look for signs of cancer or treatment side effects.
Your doctor should give you a follow-up plan. This plan usually includes regular doctor visits and PSA blood tests, with digital rectal exams if your prostate hasn’t been removed. These will probably begin within a few months of finishing treatment. Most doctors recommend PSA tests about every 6 months for the first 5 years after treatment, and at least yearly after that. Bone scans or other imaging tests might also be done, depending on your medical situation.
Almost any cancer treatment can have side effects. Some might last for a few weeks to months, but others can last the rest of your life. This is the time for you to talk to your cancer care team about any changes or problems you notice and any questions or concerns you have.
Prostate cancer can recur even many years after treatment, which is why it’s important to keep regular doctor visits and report any new symptoms (such as bone pain or problems with urination).
Should your prostate cancer come back, your treatment options will depend on where it’s thought to be located and what types of treatment you’ve already had. For more information, see the section “Prostate cancer that remains or recurs 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 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 this information soon after treatment may be easier than trying to get it 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)
- If you had radiation therapy, a copy of your treatment summary
- Copies of imaging tests (CT or MRI scans, etc.), which can usually be stored digitally (on a 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 hormone therapy, chemotherapy, or other drug treatments, a list of your drugs, drug doses, and when you took them
- The names and contact information of the doctors who treated your cancer
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.
Last Medical Review: 12/22/2014
Last Revised: 03/12/2015