For some people with mesothelioma, treatment can remove or destroy the cancer completely. The end of treatment can be stressful and exciting. You may be relieved to finish treatment, but you may also find it hard not to worry about the cancer coming back. This is a very common concern for people who have had cancer.
For many people, mesothelioma may never completely go away. Some people may get regular treatments like chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or other types of treatment to try to keep the cancer manageable. Learning to live with cancer that doesn’t go away can be difficult and stressful.
But life after mesothelioma means returning to some familiar things and also making some new choices.
If you completed treatment, your doctors will still want to monitor you closely. During these follow-up visits, your doctors will ask about symptoms, examine you, and may order blood tests or imaging tests, such as CT scans or PET scans. Your doctor will most likely want to see you often (potentially every few months or so) in the beginning. The time between visits may get longer if no new problems arise.
Follow-ups are needed to check for signs of cancer recurrence or spread, as well as possible side effects of certain treatments. This is a good time to ask your health care providers any questions you might have and to discuss any concerns.
Almost any cancer treatment can have bad side effects. Some can last for weeks or months, but others are permanent. Tell your cancer care team about any symptoms or side effects that bother you so they can help you manage them effectively.
If cancer does come back, further treatment will depend on where the cancer is, what treatments you’ve had before, and your overall health. For more information on how recurrent cancer is treated, see Treatment of Mesothelioma Based on the Extent of the Cancer. For general information on dealing with a cancer recurrence, see Understanding Recurrence.
Survivorship Care Planning
Talk to your doctor about developing a survivorship care plan for you. This plan can include:
- A suggested schedule for follow-up examinations and tests
- A schedule for other tests that you may need in the future, such as early detection tests for other types of cancer, or tests to look for long-term health effects from your cancer or its treatment
- A list of possible late- or long-term side effects from your treatment, including what to watch out for and when you should contact your doctor
- Diet and physical activity suggestions
- Reminders to keep your appointments with your primary care provider, who will monitor your health care
Keeping Medical Records & Insurance
Even after treatment, it’s very important to keep health insurance intact. Tests and doctor visits cost a lot, and even though no one wants to think of their cancer coming back, this is always a possibility.
At some point after your cancer treatment, you may end up seeing a new doctor who doesn’t know about your medical history. It’s important to keep copies of your medical records to provide to your new doctor the details of your diagnosis and treatment.
Lower Risk of Recurrence
If you have (or have had) mesothelioma, you may want to know if there are things you can do to lower your risk that it will or come back, such as exercising, eating a certain type of diet, or taking supplements. Unfortunately, it’s not yet clear if there is anything that can prevent recurrence.
Adopting healthy behaviors such as not smoking, eating well, getting regular physical activity, and staying at a healthy weight may help, but there are no guarantees. We do know, however, that these types of changes have positive effects on your health that can extend beyond your risk of various cancers.