Moving on after treatment for prostate cancer
For most men with prostate cancer, 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 other men, the cancer may return or may never go away completely. These men may get treatment with hormone treatment or other treatments to help keep the cancer in check for as long as possible. Learning to live with cancer as a more of a chronic disease can be difficult and very stressful. It has its own type of uncertainty.
If you have finished treatment your doctors will still want to watch you closely. It is very important to go to all of your follow-up visits. During these visits, your doctors will ask questions about any problems you may have and may do exams and lab tests or x-rays and scans to look for signs of cancer or treatment side effects. This is a good time for you to ask any questions and discuss any concerns might have.
Your doctor should give you a follow-up plan. This plan usually includes regular doctor visits, PSA blood tests, and digital rectal exams, which will likely begin within a few months after you finish 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 may also be done, depending on your own case.
Almost any cancer treatment can have side effects. Some may last for a few weeks or months, but others can be permanent. Please tell your cancer care team about any symptoms or side effects that bother you so they can help you manage them.
Prostate cancer can come back (recur) many years after initial treatment. This is why it is 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 is thought to be located and what types of treatment you've already had.
It is also important to keep health insurance. While you hope your cancer won't come back, it could happen. If it does, you don't want to have to worry about paying for treatment. Should your cancer come back, our document When Your Cancer Comes Back: Cancer Recurrence can help you manage and cope with this phase of your treatment.
Seeing a new doctor
At some point after your cancer is found and treated, you may find yourself in the office of a new doctor. It is important that you be able to give your new doctor the exact details of your diagnosis and treatment. 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 were in the hospital, a copy of the discharge summary that the doctor wrote when you were sent home
- If you had radiation treatment, a summary of the type and dose of radiation and when and where it was given
- Copies of imaging tests (CT or MRI scans, etc.), which can usually be stored on a CD, DVD, etc.
- If you had hormone therapy, chemo, or other drug treatments, a list of your drugs, drug doses, and when you took them
Last Medical Review: 03/09/2012
Last Revised: 01/17/2013