After Treatment, Figuring Out My New Healthcare Routine

After completing my chemotherapy, I was uncertain as to who I should see for routine health care. Routine healthcare includes annual checkups, medical tests, immunizations, and occasional sick visits. My oncology healthcare provider developed a survivorship care plan, which spelled out my cancer diagnosis treatment and frequency of follow-up. This information was provided to my primary care provider.

My shared care approach

I found that a shared care approach in which I would regularly see both my oncologist and primary care doctor to be beneficial for me. My oncologist is seen for my scheduled checkups related to my cancer, evaluation of any side effects of treatment, any new symptoms or concerns, and scheduled diagnostics such as my annual CT scan.

My primary care physician provides preventive care including vaccinations such as influenza and pneumonia vaccine since my immune system may be impacted by my cancer, blood pressure and heart rate monitoring, diabetes and cholesterol tests, and refers me for screening for other cancers based on my age and risk. This may include mammography to detect breast cancer and referral for a colonoscopy as indicated to detect colon cancer. Minor illnesses, like a cold, or some injuries may be able to be handled by my primary provider.

The literature reports that primary care physicians may lose touch with patients while they are receiving cancer treatment.1 To avoid this, I have asked that my oncologist send reports and any major findings to my primary care physician so that he is engaged and up to date with my progress. This helps to minimize any confusion or miscommunication as I see my healthcare team throughout the year.1

Tired of doctor’s appointments, but keeping my health in check

While cancer survivors may not look forward to seeing additional healthcare providers, it is important to evaluate dental and eye health. As a result of my treatment, I experienced dry eye and dry mouth, each of which required intervention. My dentist educated me about the importance of scheduled dental checks as dry mouth could predispose to dental cavities. In my case, I required a root canal. I also experienced painful eyes after doing computer work. My ophthalmologist recognized this because of my treatments and prescribed an appropriate eye medication.

At times as a cancer survivor, I am tired of physician appointments. However, we must consider health maintenance as a priority. Seeing a dermatologist for an annual skin check may be a consideration. I have enjoyed the beach and sun for my entire life. As a result, I have had basal cell cancer on my face several times. Now, in addition to my oncologist, and primary care physician, I include a visit to a dentist, ophthalmologist, and a dermatologist.

After a cancer diagnosis, a patient’s healthcare team widens. It is most important that routine health care is provided, and communication of patient progress and status be shared with all caregivers.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Blood-Cancer.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.
View References
  1. Chadwick, D. Routine Health Care for Cancer Survivors. Cancer Today. Available at https://www.cancertodaymag.org/Pages/Winter2017-2018/Routine-Health-Care-for-Cancer-Survivors.aspx

Comments

View Comments (4)
  • Yolanda Brunson-Sarrabo moderator
    3 weeks ago

    Carole, I love the idea of asking our oncology team to update Primary with a literature report. It’s hard to deal with patients like us when a primary doesn’t know all the details. As for the physician appointments, they can be a pain in the butt, but if you put a plan into action, it can be less taxing. I ensure I have 3-4 things scheduled for that day:
    -Hair appointment
    -lunch with a friend
    -pay bills/ bank
    -Drop into the library or Starbucks to work on my tablet
    -Then head to my doctor appointment.
    I don’t play with my time when it comes to this appointment that takes a bit mentally going over maintenance after a long wait.

  • Carole McCue author
    3 weeks ago

    Hi Yolanda,
    We need strategies to lessen the anxiety of MD visits. Whatever works🙏🏻🙏🏻❤️

  • Daniel Malito moderator
    3 weeks ago

    @cmccue God, I get it about being tired of going to the doctor. I have at least 4 appointments a month in the city, and that’s a big ol’ pain in the butt to get to. It’s usually a whole day affair. I wish I would not go sometimes, but I have to. Great article. Keep on keepin’ on, DPM

  • Carole McCue author
    3 weeks ago

    I agree appts are time consuming. Since we commute to our appt, we try to plan a nice lunch or visit with friends after the appt. It’s something to look forward to🤗

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