Follow-Up Care and Routines for Ovarian Cancer
Once your treatment is over, follow-up care is an important part of your health and well-being. It can help you and your care team manage any side effects and watch for signs if your cancer is returning.
Together, you and your team can create a plan for the future. Sometimes this is also called survivorship care.1
What does follow-up care involve?
Follow-up care is a way to stay connected to your care team. Together, they can help you enjoy quality of life even after treatment has ended.1
The side effects of cancer treatment may continue even after treatment is over. Some people may also experience new side effects after treatment. Follow-up care works to manage these side effects.
Follow-up care also allows your doctor to monitor you for signs that your cancer has returned. It often includes emotional support and a survivorship plan.1
What is a survivorship plan?
A survivorship plan can include a variety of things depending on your needs. It is sometimes called a survivorship care plan. It may include:2
- Suggested schedules for follow-up exams and tests
- Schedules for other tests you might need. This may include screening tests for different cancers or tests to monitor long-term side effects from treatment
- A list of possible treatment side effects and symptoms to watch for and details on when to call your doctor with concerns
- Diet and physical activity suggestions
- Reminders to stay in touch with your primary care doctor and have follow-up visits to monitor your general health and well-being
Your survivorship plan may also have steps to address your mental and emotional health. This can include finding a therapist who specializes in cancer survivorship, a cancer support group, or community resources.2
What happens during a typical follow-up visit?
Follow-up visits can vary depending based on when your treatment ended and your specific needs. For the first 2 years after treatment, these visits are usually every 2 to 4 months. For the next 3 years, they are usually every 3 to 6 months. Five years after treatment, you usually have a follow-up visit once a year.1
You may see your doctor more often if you need a specific test or screening.1
In general, follow-up visits may include:3
- A physical exam and review of your medical history
- An assessment to see of your cancer has come back (recurrence)
- Evaluating any late effects of cancer and/or treatment and finding ways to managing them
- Tips for healthy nutrition and exercise, preventing health issues, and stopping smoking, if necessary
- Suggestions for additional screenings or genetic testing
What kinds of follow-up tests or other types of care may be done?
Your doctor may use a variety of follow-up tests. Some tests are only done if needed. Along with a physical and pelvic exam, your doctor may also use:1
- Imaging of the chest, abdomen, or pelvis with CT, MRI, PET/CT, or PET
- Chest X-ray
- Blood work, including a CA-125 blood test
- Referrals for genetic testing
- Long-term wellness care on things like exercise, nutrition, mental health
Things to consider
While you will see your oncologist for your follow-up care, it is also important to see your primary care doctor for regular checkups. Your doctor and your oncologist should share details about your health with each other. This includes any changes in your health, along with concerns you or they might have.
Your care team should also work with you to put together a wellness plan. This should include steps you can take and tests you should have to stay as healthy as possible.