Now that my cancer treatment is complete, what do I need to tell any new providers I see about my medical history?
STACIE CORCORAN: Having a primary care physician or internist is incredibly important when you are a cancer survivor. Your oncologist will continue to be involved in your care, but you now will see your primary care doctor most of the time. Ideally you had a primary care doctor during treatment whom you can continue to see after treatment ends.
When your treatment is complete, your cancer care team should provide you with a survivorship care plan to take to your primary care physician. This document will include your treatment summary and care plan. It will contain your cancer diagnosis, stage, date of diagnosis and any type of treatment you have received. These details can be helpful in identifying risks for long-term side effects from your treatment.
The care plan should include guidance on how often you should follow up with your oncologist and what testing is needed to monitor for a recurrence. Ideally, there will be information on actual or potential long-term side effects based on your treatment history. If you’ve had genetic testing, those results also should be included, along with your family history of cancer. The survivorship care plan may include general steps you can take to stay healthy, including guidance on diet, physical activity and immunizations. Your survivorship care plan will include the names and contact details for your oncology providers as well.
Ideally, your care team will provide this document to you and to your primary care provider when cancer treatment is completed. Many places provide the plan automatically, but you may need to ask for it. This snapshot of information serves as a roadmap for you, your primary care provider and any other providers involved in your care.
As you transition from active treatment, you may also want to clarify what concerns you should bring to your cancer care team versus your primary doctor. Sometimes during treatment, patients become reliant on their oncologist for guidance on most health issues, so it’s helpful to spell out the cancer care team’s role moving forward.
After treatment ends, if you have symptoms you think may be long-term effects of cancer treatment, such as any new issues with your heart, you can bring these concerns to your oncologist for guidance. The same goes for cognitive changes, sleep issues, chronic fatigue or neuropathy. If new symptoms or a condition are tied to your cancer treatment, your oncologist can help get you to the right specialist or resource. Having this information will help you feel secure as you make this transition in your care as a cancer survivor.