The American Cancer Society reports that the five-year survival rate for all cancers combined that were diagnosed between 2009 and 2015 was 67%. That’s a noteworthy and encouraging statistic, though global figures compiled by Ourworldindata.org indicate that five-year survival rates following diagnosis are significantly lower in poorer countries. In addition, the road to recovery for cancer patients typically does not end when treatments are completed.
The National Cancer Institute notes that many cancer survivors have indicated that information and support was abundant during their treatment. However, once treatment stopped, a new wave of questions and uncertainty soon emerged. For example, the NCI points out that many cancer survivors recognize that life after treatment is less about “getting back to normal” than it is about discovering the new normal. In fact, the Memorial Sloan Ketting Cancer Center reports that most people indicate it takes between six and 12 months after they complete chemotherapy before they truly feel like themselves again.
Follow-up care also is a vital part of recovering from cancer. The NCI notes that cancer survivors typically return to the doctor every three to four months during the first two to three years after treatment. After that, survivors may see their doctors once or twice a year. Follow-up care is vital for cancer survivors, as it provides their doctors an opportunity to determine if patients are experiencing any side effects from treatment. These appointments also allow doctors to determine if the cancer has returned or spread to other parts of the body. In addition, follow-up visits provide an opportunity for cancer survivors to bring up any symptoms or questions they might have. Patients can ask about ways to reduce their risk of cancer recurrence and seek advice on getting back to normal, including how quickly they can begin exercising and how to approach new fitness regimens if they were inactive prior to diagnosis.
The road to recovery from cancer may be filled with uncertainty. But cancer survivors should recognize that millions before them have survived the disease and gone on to live full, happy lives. A patient approach to recovery can help cancer survivors overcome any obstacles they may encounter along the way.