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.
For you and your friends and family, the end of cancer treatment can be a source of relief and reason for celebration. It can also signal the start of a new phase of:
Following treatment your focus will shift from being reliant on health care systems for your treatment, to making more independent decisions about how you live after cancer.
The decisions you make will involve, for example:
Adjusting to life after treatment
Adjusting to life after cancer can take time. Now that your treatment is over, your friends and family may expect you to 'get on with life' – when, in reality you are still coping with the aftermath of side effects, fatigue or feeling generally unsettled.
It is important to take time to look after yourself, physically and emotionally. The information navigator topic on Healthy Eating and Exercise has some great resources to help you in this area.
Through communication you can also help the people close to you to better understand what you are going through.
There are resources in this navigator topic to help you understand what you are feeling. You might like to share these resources with people in your life, and talk about how they relate to you.
You may also prefer to talk to someone else, like a counsellor, or seek the support of other women who have been through a similar cancer experience. There are resources in this navigator to help you link in with peer support.
Living with long terms side effects
'After treatment' refers to the period following cancer surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. In this period:
Some side effects or changes may be a direct side effect of treatment, and include:
Remember you can always talk to your doctor if you have questions about about your health.
Other effects of cancer treatment
After you finish treatment, it is likely you will be involved in having regular medical check ups, which can be a source of anxiety and worry for you and your family.
Other issues that can arise as a consequence of living with cancer treatment include:
A combination of these factors can impact on your well-being and prove challenging in managing your health, and your psychological and emotional needs following cancer treatment.
The resources in this and the other navigator topics will help you to better understand and manage some of these challenges.
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.
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 organisation, based in Melbourne, established to represent the interests and needs of people who have been through cancer treatment.
Victorian-based organisation dedicated to supporting and assisting women diagnosed with breast and gynaecological cancers.
Victorian arm of Cancer Council which provides information, resources, advocacy and direct services to people effected by cancer.
Australia wide organisation that provides information, support and advocacy for women with breast cancer, from diagnosis through to life after treatment.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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'.
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.
PDF booklet providing information on managing the financial burden of a cancer diagnosis.
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.
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.
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.
Dr Mary Dwyer and Natalie Goroncy discuss long-term side effects following breast or gynaecological cancer treatment.
The festive season comes along with many social gatherings that can be enjoyable. However, they also take time and energy. Social worker Lynda Evans outlines strategies to look after ourselves and enjoy the festivities while remaining as calm and stress-free as possible.
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.
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.)
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 programs, books and DVDs that are not readily available online.
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.
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.
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 is a unique free information and support service for Victorian women living with cancer. Women can connect and speak with trained peer support volunteers who have experienced cancer themselves or cared for someone who has.
'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.
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.
The Sloane Kettering Bridges 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.
Compilation of stories by women, their carers and families, who have lived through breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. (Published by Busybird Publishing, Victoria (2012)).
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)).