Following the diagnosis of a breast cancer, patients are whisked up in the whirlwind of doctors, diagnostic tests, surgeries and oncology treatments, which can sometimes take a year to complete! But then what?
Your treatment is finished and you feel like you have been kicked out of the nest…I read somewhere that cancer casts a long shadow… Active treatments are finished and out of the safety of the nest you go – Where to from here?
Survivorship begins from the day of diagnosis. I receive many phone calls from patients who are uncertain of the next step, basically, who to see when and how to move forward post treatment.
So, many patients also phone in experiencing symptoms, like pain, feeling a lump etc. What do you do and whom do you turn to with that little ache? How do you know if the cancer has come back? This causes fear and worry after everything that has happened. It is important to have guidelines in place for follow-up care. There can be no disappearing into the sunset (Please ladies and gents!).
Doctors, navigators and nurses can reduce this stress and anxiety by providing patients with practical information. This is where survivorship programmes and follow-up care must kick in. Patient navigators and oncology nurses WILL be able to guide you. Taking charge of your own welfare is also paramount in your wellbeing and don’t be scared to ask for help!
So, the nuts and bolts…who to see and what to do when
- Breast Surgeon, once a year
- Gynaecologist annually
- Mammograms annually
- Breast ultrasounds six monthly
- Specialist oncologists generally give you dates to return
- Dermatologist for mole mapping
- Forty to fifty year old people – colonoscopy and gastroscopy
Try not to see all the doctors or organise tests all at the same time. Make sure someone is keeping his or her eye on you throughout the year.
When all is said and done, you are a survivor!! Get out there, enjoy your life and have fun!
Written by Julie Belloni.