Moving on after treatment for prostate cancer
For most men with prostate 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 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 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. Our document When Cancer Doesn’t Go Away talks more about this.
Even if you have finished treatment your doctors will still want to watch you closely. It’s very important to go to all of your follow-up visits. During these visits, your doctors will ask questions about any problems you are having and may do exams and lab tests or 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 and PSA blood tests, with digital rectal exams if your prostate hasn’t been removed. This will likely begin within a few months after you finish treatment.
Almost any cancer treatment can have side effects. Some might last for a few weeks or months, but others might last the rest of your life. 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) even many years after treatment. This 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 is thought to be located and what types of treatment you’ve already had. For more on dealing with a cancer recurrence, see our document When Your Cancer Comes Back: Cancer Recurrence.
It’s also very important to keep your health insurance. While you hope the cancer won’t come back, it could happen. If it does, you don’t want to have to worry about paying for treatment.
Seeing a new doctor
At some point after your cancer is treated, you may be seeing a new doctor. 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 from any biopsy or surgery
- If you had surgery, a copy of your operative report
- 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 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 digitally (on a DVD, etc.)
- If you had hormone therapy, chemo, 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
Last Medical Review: 01/09/2015
Last Revised: 01/30/2015