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Life After Treatment

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Life after cancer treatment is different for everyone.

For many people, the cancer experience is traumatic and upsetting. It is common to feel unsettled and to go through a range of complex emotions as you adjust to life after treatment.

This Navigator topic includes a range of resources about finding the 'new you' following treatment. This process includes rethinking priorities, adjusting to long term side effects, as well as dealing with worry, uncertainty and fear of the cancer returning.

 


Last Updated: 10 June, 2021 4:14 pm

In adjusting to life after cancer treatment, you may wish to consider the following questions, which can help to gather information, identify priorities and find the support you need. You can ask these questions of your oncologist, other medical specialist, breast care nurse, counselling support, or as a guide in helping to devise your own questions.

  • What can I do to manage ongoing problems with pain/tingling/numbness?
  • Where can I get help to deal with feelings of being stressed, anxious or depressed?
  • What monitoring should I have with a doctor and how frequently?
  • What can I do to reduce the chances of my cancer returning?
  • What should I do if I have new symptoms between check ups?
  • What can I do about feelings of worry about the cancer coming back?
  • What should I say to my children/friends/work colleagues about my cancer?
  • What do I say to a new employer about my cancer?
  • How do I get my finances back on track?
  • Where can I find information about support groups?
  • How do I go about setting short and longer term goals?
  • Is it normal to feel that I have changed since my cancer experience?
  • Where can my partner and I get some help with our relationship?
  • I am single - how do I manage meeting new potential partners?
  • How do I rekindle my interest in intimacy and/or sex?
  • When will I feel comfortable with my changed body?

This list provides links to websites of organisations that are dedicated to providing information or support in relation to life after cancer treatment. The link will take you to the organisation's home page where you can search for information independently.

Australian Cancer Survivorship Centre (AUS)

Australian organisation, based in Melbourne, established to represent the interests and needs of people who have been through cancer treatment.

Cancer Council Victoria (VIC)

Victorian arm of Cancer Council which provides information, resources, advocacy and direct services to people effected by cancer.

Breast Cancer Network Australia (AUS)

Australia wide organisation that provides information, support and advocacy for women with breast cancer, from diagnosis through to life after treatment.

Counterpart (formerly BreaCan) (VIC)

Victorian-based organisation dedicated to supporting and assisting women diagnosed with breast and gynaecological cancers.

Olivia Newton-John Cancer, Wellness and Research Centre (VIC)

Based at the Austin Hospital in North-East Melbourne, the Centre provides information and services to people affected by cancer. The organisation offers a program of events that includes cancer information sessions and gentle exercise.

CanTeen (AUS)

Australia-wide organisation that provides information and support to young people aged 12-24 years and affected by cancer, including young people diagnosed with cancer, family members and carers.

The online resources recommended below include links to important information relevant to life after cancer that is primarily available online, or can be printed off as a contained document. The link will take you to the relevant section on life after cancer treatment.

Some of the links to organisation's websites may be repeated in the 'Key organisations' section of this navigator in recognition of the important role these organisations play in support for people after cancer.

Cancer Council; Victorian Government - Breast cancer: your guide to best cancer care (AUS)

An interactive web portal that guides you through the specific steps and recommended care for each stage of breast cancer, including after treatment. This is particularly useful as background information before discussions with your treatment team. Click the link to download as a printable fact sheet.

Cancer Council Australia - On the road to recovery (AUS) 2014

This booklet is available in 9 languages – Arabic, English, Greek, Hindi, Italian, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Tagalog and Vietnamese. It covers information on a range of challenges faced by people following treatment for cancer, including side effects, fear of recurrence and financial issues. Also available in hard copy – see Offline Resources.

Cancer Council Victoria - Life after cancer treatment (VIC)

This section of the CCV website covers a broad range of topics including making decisions about returning to work, disclosure of your condition to your employers and colleagues, managing cancer fatigue, grief and loss, and communicating with children about cancer.

Cancer Council Australia - Living well after cancer 2018 (AUS)

This PDF booklet (also available in hard copy) is aimed at people who have finished their initial cancer treatment. Includes issues such as fear of recurrence, follow-up care and long-term side effects.

Cancer Council Victoria - Emotions (VIC)

This section of the Cancer Council Victoria website has information on the emotional impact of living with cancer diagnosis, treatment and the many aspects of life after cancer. Scroll to the bottom of the page for links to the booklet 'Emotions and Cancer'.

Cancer Council Victoria - Legal and financial advice (VIC)

This page has a range of information on financial and legal assistance for people living with cancer and their carers. It includes information on how to arrange early release of your superannuation on medical grounds, and a pro-bono legal service available for some legal matters related to living with cancer.

Beyond Blue/BCNA Fact Sheet - 'Anxiety, depression and breast cancer' 2014 (AUS)

The national depression initiative Beyond Blue has developed a 6-page fact sheet in collaboration with BCNA. It covers information about the emotional and psychological demands of coping during and after breast cancer. It includes strategies to assist during different phases of treatment, and has information on the interaction between certain anti-depressant medication and cancer drug Tamoxifen. Download to print or order a hard copy.

CanTeen - Life After Treatment (AUS)

Information for young people aged 12-24 years, living with cancer diagnosis. The CanTeen website also provides resources for young people with a parent with cancer, and resources to assist parents with a cancer diagnosis to talk to their children about cancer.

Breastcancer.org - Complementary and Holistic Medicine 2019

This section on complementary therapies, featured on the American website 'Breastcancer.org' features detailed information on the risks and benefits of a large range of complementary medicines and approaches. There is a useful section on how complementary therapies can be helpful in treating side effects of cancer treatment and promoting health and well being.

Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer - Survivorship Centre: Living Beyond Cancer (US)

This American based website includes a comprehensive section on survivorship that is relevant to an Australian setting. It includes information on coping with the physical, psychological and social impacts of cancer treatment. Scroll down to related topics for videos relevant to life after treatment.

Counterpart (formerly Breacan) podcast - 'Now What? Finding your new normal' 2013 (VIC)

Dr Carrie Lethborg, Clinical Leader, Cancer Social Work, and Co-ordinator of Psychosocial Cancer Care at St Vincent’s Hospital, talks about the many issues common to women who have completed treatment.

Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) - My Journey online tool 2018 (AUS)

Formerly the My Journey Kit, this tool is now online. Sign up to access information that can be tailored to your situation. Under Profile, make sure your Situation is set to 'End of hospital treatment' to find information on life after treatment, including work and fear of recurrence.

Counterpart webinar - 'Long-Term Effects' 2018 (VIC)

Dr Mary Dwyer and Natalie Goroncy discuss long-term side effects following breast or gynaecological cancer treatment.

Counterpart (formerly Breacan) podcast - 'Anxiety' 2013 (VIC)

Jane Fletcher discusses a range of anxiety disorders and the impact they can have on the individual and family.

Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre - 'Information sheet: Have you got a GP?'

This fact sheet highlights the importance of the general practitioner (GP) as a member of your healthcare team. Includes tips on choosing the right GP for your needs.

Ovarian Cancer Australia - 'Fear of recurrence' 2018

Although this webinar is aimed at women with ovarian cancer, it is also relevant to women diagnosed with other types of cancer. This webinar features clinical psychologist Dr Maria Ftanou, Postdoctoral Fellow at the Centre for Oncology Education and Research Translation, and Ms Jan Antony, who was diagnosed with Stage III ovarian cancer.They discuss some common fears of people who have finished cancer treatment and provide advice on managing those fears. (Scroll down the Ovarian Cancer Australia webinar page to find this webinar.)

Australia. Department of Health - Better Access to Mental Health Care (AUS)

Medicare rebated counselling is available for individuals with diagnosed mental health conditions (including depression and anxiety) under the Better Outcomes for Mental Health Counselling Scheme. Refer to the link for information on eligibility and referral.

This is a list of hard copy resources such as books and CDs that are not readily available online. They may be available for loan through Counterpart’s Resource Centre or may be sourced independently online or through book stores. You can access the Counterpart library online or call the Resource Centre directly on 1300 781 500.

On the road to recovery

This booklet is available in 9 languages – Arabic, English, Greek, Hindi, Italian, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Tagalog and Vietnamese. It covers information on a range of challenges faced by people following treatment for cancer, including side effects, fear of recurrence and financial issues. Also available online.

Cancer Council Australia (2014)

View Details Online

Cancer Council Victoria - Legal and financial assistance

Cancer Council can arrange access to free legal and financial services for advice on matters related to living with cancer, such as discrimination in the workplace and tenancy disputes. Scroll to the bottom of the page for useful fact sheets on a range of topics.

View Details Online

'The Cancer Survivor's Companion' by Dr Frances Goodhart and Lucy Atkins (book)

This is an award winning book from the UK, written by a health journalist and a clinical psychologist who has worked for Macmillan Cancer Services. The authors address the "emotional fallout" after cancer treatment, and include practical strategies, personal stories and information on psychological health and well being.

Piatkus, London (3rd edition; 2013)

View Details Online

'The Essence of Health' by Craig Hassed (book)

Author Craig Hassed, an Australian medical researcher and thinker, discusses the importance of taking a holistic approach in the management of chronic, and other, health conditions.

Random House Australia, Sydney (2008)

View Details Online

'The Human Side of Cancer' by J.C. Holland and S. Lewis (book)

The authors of this book explore the psychological and emotional impact of cancer and "living with hope, coping with uncertainty". The book is written from an evidence based perspective, by authors with a medical background. It includes discussion about the mind-body connection and how this impacts on the cancer experience and 'coping'.

Harper Collins, New York (2000)

View Details Online

Other books are listed on the 'personal stories' page of this navigator

This list directs you to books or websites containing personal stories. Online resources may include blogs, online forums, videos or written testimonies. The information contained in these links reflects the personal experiences of individuals and does not necessarily constitute evidence-based research or information.

Peter Mac Cancer Centre - Stories of people affected by cancer (AUS)

A range of personal stories of people affected by cancer are available on the Peter Mac Cancer Centre website (in collaboration with Australian Cancer Survivorship Centre).

Counterpart (formerly BreaCan) Resource Centre (VIC)

Counterpart (formerly BreaCan) is a unique free information and support service for Victorian women living with breast or gynaecological cancers. Women can connect and speak with trained peer support volunteers who have experienced cancer themselves or cared for someone who has.

Breast Cancer Network Australia - The Beacon Newsletter (AUS)

'The Beacon' newsletter is published quarterly by BCNA and features many personal stories of women who have been through breast cancer treatment. BCNA also has an online network for those affected by breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Network Australia - Personal stories - emotional wellbeing (AUS)

This page on the BCNA website links to personal stories about creativity and breast cancer, inspiration gained through living with a cancer diagnosis, and other stories about life after breast cancer treatment.

Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer Centre - 'Newsletter for survivors' (US)

The Sloane Kettering Quarterly Newsletter is produced ‘by survivors for survivors’ – this link takes you to past and present issues of the newsletter. Although the stories are American, they are also relevant to an Australian setting.

'Life Support. An Everyday Guide to Living with Cancer' (magazine)

Practical and easy to read magazine style publication, produced by Lifehouse, Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney. The publication features a range of information relevant to life after treatment, practical tips, and many personal stories of people who have been through cancer diagnosis and treatment. The 2009 publication can be purchased online or borrowed from the Counterpart library.

'Journey, Experiences with Breast Cancer' (book), edited by B. Van Hecke and L. Zigomanis (book)

Compilation of stories by women, their carers and families, who have lived through breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. (Published by Busybird Publishing, Victoria (2012)).

'Raelene - Sometimes Beaten, Never Conquered' (book) by R. Boyle and G. Linnell

Autobiography of Australian athlete Raelene Boyle who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1996, and later with ovarian cancer. The book is an entertaining and inspiring story of her life, before and after her cancer diagnosis. (Published by Harper Collins Publishers, Sydney (2003)).