Life After Cancer Treatment

The treatment portion of your cancer journey is over...now what?

Survivorship Care Plans

The CDC defines a Survivorship Care Plan as "a complete record of your cancer history, treatments given, the need for future checkups and cancer tests, possible long-term effects of the treatment, and ideas for staying healthy. The plan needs to identify which health care providers are responsible for your care."

Upon completion of your cancer treatment, someone from your oncology care team should create and discuss your personalized Henry Ford Survivorship Care Plan with you. The purpose of a Survivorship Care Plan is to:

  • Summarize your cancer treatment
  • Improve quality of life post-treatment
  • Improve quality of care

Caring for your body after cancer treatment

Once cancer treatment is over, you will be eager to return to good health. But besides just recovering from the effects cancer surgery or treatment had on your body, there are other ways you can improve your long-term health, to enjoy survivorship with the highest possible quality of life. Here’s what you can do:

  • Identify and treat cancer treatment side effects. Side effects that go untreated can lower your quality of life.
  • Get genetic testing. Talk to your care team to see if you are a candidate for genetic testing. Genetic testing will help identify if you have a hereditary risk for certain types of cancer, and allow your care team to be extra vigilant. Family members may also benefit from genetic testing if your cancer was a hereditary type
  • Make a plan for follow-up care. talk to your doctor about what routine check-ups and cancer screenings you will need to check for signs of recurrence or new cancers as early as possible.
  • Make healthy choices:
    • Avoid all forms of tobacco
    • Limit alcohol use
    • Avoid over-exposure to the sun or tanning beds
    • Eat a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables
    • Maintain a healthy weight
    • Exercise and be physically active

Caring for your mind after cancer treatment

Finishing your cancer treatment can sometimes feel lonely or isolating after getting used to the many trips to treatment and interactions with your care team. You may feel anxious or depressed about the possibility of a cancer recurrence, or have trouble concentrating or remembering things because of your cancer treatments. You are not alone. Support groups, classes, and retreats are available especially for survivors, along with oncology behavioral health specialists.

  • Gilda’s Club: a support group for adults who have completed cancer treatment.
  • The Lake House: wellness programs and social groups.
  • Cancer Survivor Retreat
    "It's a New Day" is a weekend retreat held three times a year for women moving forward after cancer treatment; to celebrate life and find comfort, strength and restoration. Through the hearts2love organization.
    Location: Emrich Retreat Center in Brighton, MI
    Cost: $35 fee includes two nights lodging, activities and all meals.
    Contact: (734) 674-8000
  • Talk with your care team about a referral to a psychologist or oncology social worker.
Overcoming Anxiety as a Cancer Survivor

Cancer is an anxiety-filled journey from start to finish. Read about ways to overcome this anxiety and what family and friends can do to help their loved ones.

Learn More

Worried Your Disease Will Return?

Use these techniques to break free from the fear.

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Legal and Financial Concerns of a Cancer Survivor

  • Legal

    Cancer survivors should be aware of the protections they are entitled to when it comes to employment.

    The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects cancer survivors seeking jobs from being discriminated against because of health status, and protects people with jobs from discrimination by their employer due to a cancer diagnosis.

    • A potential employer can’t deny you a job based solely on your cancer history
    • You are not required to tell a potential employer that you had cancer
    • Employers must make accommodations that are within reason for an employee with cancer

    Learn More About ADA Protections

    Advance Care Planning is important for all survivors, regardless of cancer type, treatment, or stage. Make sure you have completed an Advance Directive Form. This legal document will ensure your family and care team are aware of your medical wishes if you become unable to make your own medical decisions.

    Learn more about advance care planning.

  • Financial

    Even with health insurance, cancer treatment can be expensive, and can have a lasting financial impact on survivors.

    Financial problems faced by cancer survivors include:

    • Costs of treatments or medications not covered by insurance linger as debt long after treatment has ended
    • Ending of employer-provided health, disability and life insurance benefits if survivors were unable to work while undergoing surgery or treatment
    • Difficulty finding a job after treatment that offers health, disability and life insurance benefits
    • Household bills that pile up as survivors struggle to keep up with the treatment and medication bills

    Explore the following options to help ease any financial issues you may have as a cancer survivor.

    • Additional income. Look into Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to see if you qualify.
    • Life insurance. Life insurance could be used as a source of cash or to obtain a loan. Keep the life insurance policy if leaving a job. Sometimes it’s possible to sell life insurance policies for a portion of their value. Contact the company to find out more.
    • Retirement plans. An employee pension or retirement savings plan might be a source of cash and a way to fund disability income. Read the employee benefits book to find out if this is an option. Retirement funds may be available if you are still employed and meet your plan’s hardship provisions.

    Ask your care team to refer you to an oncology social worker or financial navigator if you are having anxiety about bills associated with your cancer treatment.


Survivorship stories

cancer survivorship lunchBe inspired by these Henry Ford Cancer Institute patients as they share the story of their cancer journey. Read stories from patients with the following cancer types:

 

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Colleen's Corner: Local and National Resources

Online Resources

These websites have comprehensive information and resources for survivors about life after cancer:

Other resources:

  • The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) offers an interactive survivorship handbook that outlines issues survivors may face, information on supportive services, with space to take notes and ideas for questions to ask providers.
  • Sexuality after cancer -- The Henry Ford Sexual Health Clinic helps patients with sexual problems or concerns after cancer.

Learn More About Our Resources

Get Involved

As a survivor, you have a special connection with those just starting or finishing their cancer journey. Learn about the many ways you can contribute or sign up to volunteer.

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Share Your Story

If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer tell us your story. Your story can bring strength and practical support to others.

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