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A new chapter begins: Tips for managing your life after cancer treatments end

Tips for managing your life after cancer treatments end

A day that seemed so far away is finally here: You've finished your last cancer treatment. You're elated and eager to get back to your everyday life — one that doesn't revolve around chemo, radiation or cancer itself.

Still, you may have moments of intense uncertainty. In fact, along with relief, you may also wonder, "Will my cancer come back?"

"Worries like this are an entirely normal part of surviving cancer," says Carla Ostronic, MPAS, PA-C, who cares for patients at Lake Regional Cancer Center. "Usually, these worries are most severe in the first year after treatment and improve as time passes."

In the meantime, here are ways to feel less anxious and more in control.

Get accurate information. No one can predict with absolute certainty what the future holds. Still, cancer often follows a predictable pattern of recurrence. So be sure to talk with your doctor about how likely it is that your cancer will return and what symptoms to watch for. You may be worrying unnecessarily.

Practice letting go. When fears about cancer's return enter your mind, try not to let them linger. Some survivors picture their fears floating away — or even being vaporized. This might work for you. Others turn their worries over to a higher power.

Reach out. Rather than bottling up your concerns, share them with a trusted friend, family member, or spiritual or mental health counselor. The simple act of talking openly can make worries less intense, especially when you have a caring listener.

You also might turn to a support group for cancer survivors, either one that's nearby or one that's online.

"The emotional support of people who know what you're going through from firsthand experience can be tremendously helpful," Ostronic says. "Fellow survivors also may share practical information about what to expect after treatment and how to manage concerns that cancer may return."

Make positive lifestyle changes. Healthy habits can help you feel in control, and they're especially important for cancer survivors.

"Regular exercise can help you feel less anxious and fatigued, and a nutritious diet can help you regain strength after treatment," Ostronic says. "And studies suggest that both may help prevent certain cancers from returning."

Finally, do your best to celebrate and embrace this new chapter in your life.

"You are joining nearly 17 million Americans alive today who've had cancer," Ostronic says. "You're not alone in this next stretch of your journey, and we're never more than a call away."

Sources: American Cancer Society; American Society of Clinical Oncology

Categories: Cancer care

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