Compliance is an integral part of survivorship; this includes your follow-up schedule and medication.
Your follow-up schedule is dependent on the type of cancer you have. It may be every three months, then every six months, then annually. Regular check-ups may include blood tests or radiological tests, such as scans or X-rays. These are essential to try and prevent progression or to detect a recurrence early.
It’s important to let your doctor know about any of the following symptoms if you’re in between check-ups as they may be signs of recurrent cancer:
• Unexplained or persistent pain
• New unexplained weight loss
• New lumps not felt before
• Fatigue that is out of keeping with your normal activities
• Weakness or numbness in the arms or legs
• Shortness of breath
• Swelling in the abdomen
• Jaundice or easy bruising
It’s normal to be fearful and anxious before having these tests. But it’s best to catch it earlier for better treatment outcomes, and if it’s clear you’ll have peace of mind.
You may also think it’s a waste of time and money to go for check-ups after years of no signs of cancer, but there is a chance that some cancer cells were left in your body that survived and over time, these cells can begin to grow again. And it’s with these scheduled follow-ups that it will be found.
A common reason for medication non-compliance is either side effects caused from the medication, or cost. In both cases, you need to be honest with your treating doctor, voice the side effects you’re experiencing so they can treat them but don’t just stop taking your medication.
Remember the medication is to help you but at the same time, you don’t have to suffer in silence. Effective treatments are available to alleviate side effects. The same goes with cost; if it’s becoming a financial burden, ask if there isn’t a cheaper generic version or ask about clinical trials. Open communication is vital. It’s also important to exercise, eat healthy and seek psychological support if you feel you’re not coping.
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