Survivorship – What Now?

Life Following Active or Curative Treatment

You’ve been through surgery and many weeks, maybe months of chemotherapy and radiation. Your oncologist tells you that you have completed this phase of active or curative treatment.  You may have a follow-up appointment in 3-6 months or you may be transitioning to maintenance or prophylactic (preventative or protective) treatment.  Now what?  How do you put your life back in order, or in a new order?

Your recent world (and often the world of those closest to you) has been dominated by changes in lifestyle, doctor’s appointments, medications, not feeling like yourself physically or mentally and multiple therapies.  What has filled your time for so long is now coming to an end or at least is being significantly changed.  The medical support team you have come to know and depend on during your active treatment phase will no longer be a part of your life in the same way it has been.  What will it be like without them? How will you move forward with this new phase of your life? How will your life get back to normal or a “new normal?”

Many people diagnosed with cancer identify with the term survivor or survivorship to define their experience with cancer while many others do not.  The term “survivorship” has been defined in many different ways.  One definition explains survivorship as starting with a diagnosis of cancer and lasting throughout one’s entire experience with cancer, including all of the phases following active treatment.  Another definition is having no sign of the disease following treatment.

Some individuals living with cancer choose not to use this term as they feel they have not “survived” cancer but rather are still dealing with it.  The key is that “survivorship” and dealing with life post curative treatment are unique to the individual and each person has to find his or her own way while navigating their own cancer experience.

Below are some resources to help you answer some common questions and address concerns that individuals often have in this phase of their experience with cancer.


Publications Covering Many Relevant Issues

Cancer Resource Center: Now What-Life after Cancer Treatment

Cancer.Net: ASCO answers Cancer Survivorship

Macmillan Cancer Support: What to do after Cancer Treatment Ends: 10 Top Tips

MD Anderson Cancer Center: Life After Cancer

National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship: Cancer Survival Toolbox

National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship: Cancer Survival Toolbox (Audio)

National Cancer Institute: Facing Forward – Life after Cancer Treatment


Common Questions

Cancer.Net: Expert Q&A – What Comes Next After Finishing Treatment

Journey Forward: Managing Fatigue

Journey Forward: Managing Pain

Cure: 10 Tips to Help You Navigate Life after Cancer

Livestrong: Late Effects of Cancer Treatment

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: Resources for Survivors


Follow-up Care

National Cancer Institute: Follow-up Care after Cancer Treatment-Fact-Sheet

Cancer.Net: The Importance of Follow-up Care

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute: Follow-up Care Common Questions


Living with Advanced Cancer /Maintenance Treatment

Cancer Resource Center: Advanced Cancer

American Cancer Society: Managing Cancer as a Chronic Illness

Cancer Council: Living with Advanced Cancer

Cancer Council: Information for Different Stages of Advanced Cancer


Body Issues

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute: Your Body after Treatment

Journey Forward: Body Changes and Intimacy

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center: Questions about Body Image after Cancer

Livestrong: Adjusting to Body Changes


Dealing with your Emotions

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute: Your Emotions after Treatment

Mayo Clinic: Managing Your Emotions after Cancer Treatment

Cancer.Net: Coping with the Fear of Recurrence

Livestrong: What to Expect after Treatment


Relationships & Intimacy

Canadian Cancer Society: Relationships after Cancer

Cancer Information and Support Network: Common Relationship Challenges

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute: Social Relationships

Cancer Support Community: Improving Sexual Intimacy after Cancer


Returning to Work

Cancer + Careers: Cancer and Careers

National Cancer Institute: Going back to Work

American Cancer Society: Options for Returning back to Work

CancerCare: Knowing Your Legal Rights (Download MP3)


Financial Issues

OncoLink: Financial Concerns During and After Cancer Treatment

Cure: Coping with Cancer-Related Financial Toxicity

MD Anderson Cancer Center: Legal and Financial Impacts of Cancer


Links to other helpful pages on our Web site