What happens after treatment for testicular cancer?
For most people with testicular cancer, treatment removes or destroys 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 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 gives more detailed information on this. It can be read online, or call us at 1-800-227-2345 to have a free copy sent to you.
For a few people, the cancer may never go away completely. They may get regular treatments with chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or other therapies to try to help keep the cancer in check. Learning to live with cancer that does not go away 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.
If you have completed treatment, your doctors will still want to watch you closely. It is very important to go to all of your follow-up appointments. During these visits, your doctors will examine you and ask questions about any problems you are having and may order lab tests or imaging tests (such as chest x-rays and CT scans) to look for signs of cancer or treatment side effects. Almost any cancer treatment can have side effects. Some may 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.
Follow-up care is extremely important after treatment of testicular cancer because even if it comes back, it’s still often curable. This is why finding it early is so important.
Your health care team will explain what tests you need and how often they should be done. If you had a non-seminoma, follow-up testing will include blood tests of tumor markers, such as alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH). Tumor markers aren’t as helpful for patients with seminoma, so they aren’t always checked Imaging tests (such as CT scans and chest X-rays) are also done to help detect relapse as early as possible. As time goes on, these visits and tests will not have to be done as often. Depending on the type of treatment that you have had, you may also need specific follow-up for the possible complications of treatment.
Make a special effort to keep all appointments with your cancer care team and follow their instructions carefully. Report any new or recurring symptoms to your doctor right away. Most of the time, if the cancer comes back, it does so in the first 2 years. Still, there is always an outside chance the cancer can come back later. There’s also a small chance that you will develop a new cancer in the other testicle, so you should report any changes to your remaining testicle to your doctor.
It’s 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.
Should your cancer come back, our document When Your Cancer Comes Back: Cancer Recurrence can give you information on how to manage and cope with this phase of your treatment. You can get this document by calling us at 1-800-227-2345, or you can read it online.
Seeing a new doctor
At some point after your cancer diagnosis and treatment, you may find yourself seeing a new doctor who doesn’t know anything about your medical history. It’s 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 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 copy of the treatment summary
- If you had chemotherapy or other medicines, a list of your drugs, drug doses, and when you took them
- Copies of your CT scans (or other imaging tests) – these can often be stored digitally on a DVD, etc.
Last Medical Review: 01/20/2015
Last Revised: 02/13/2015