Follow-up care

After cancer treatment, you’ll likely have regular visits with your doctor to keep track of how you’re doing and to make sure that any problems are found early. This is known as follow-up care.

You might not be happy about the idea of still going to doctors’ appointments. You may find that you get anxious, or you may be frustrated by the idea of more tests and exams. Then again, going to follow-up appointments may help you feel in control as you get back into everyday life.

The schedule of visits is different for each person, and tests or procedures during follow-up are tailored to your situation. You may be seen more often in the first few years after your treatment and then less often after that. If you notice any new symptoms, don’t ignore them. Call your healthcare team right away – you don’t have to wait until your next scheduled appointment.

If you have any doubts about your follow-up care, talk to someone on your healthcare team. Don’t avoid or skip a visit or a test. Follow-up appointments are meant to help you stay healthy. And know that as time goes on, checkups should become less frequent.

What happens during checkups?

Your doctor will examine you and ask how you’ve been feeling. Be honest. Talk about any symptoms that are bothering you, even if your doctor doesn’t ask about them. Tell your doctor how you feel mentally as well as physically.

Depending on the type of cancer you had, you may need to have blood tests, x-rays, scans or other medical tests.

Always tell the healthcare team about any medicines, vitamins, herbs or different healing approaches you may be using.

Coping with anxiety about your checkups

Many people say that they feel anxious before their appointments (especially the first one). You may be worried that the cancer has returned even though you feel well or worried about a new symptom that you have. Some people have an upset stomach or don't sleep well the night before the appointment. You may cry easily or find it hard to concentrate.

Some people have an increased feeling of worry about having imaging tests, such as CT scans, mammography or bone scans. Within the cancer community, this scan-related anxiety is often called "scanxiety". You can have scanxiety before the test or while having it. Some people feel the most anxious while they are waiting for results. It's also possible that your loved ones may feel scanxiety when you have to have an imaging test.

Tests are an important part of your follow-up care after your cancer treatment has finished, and it's normal to feel anxious about them.

The following tips may help you with anxiety before, during and after tests and appointments:

  • Let your healthcare team know how you are feeling. Ask them when the test results will come back, and how will you be given the results.
  • Take someone with you. It can help to bring a relative or friend to appointments to take notes, wait for you during the test and offer support.
  • Plan to do something special for yourself after your test or appointment.
  • Try to look at the visit as something positive. Follow-up care provides your healthcare team with important information about your recovery and can help you stay as healthy as possible.
  • Learn about different ways of coping with anxiety and stress.

Many people find that their anxiety gets less after several follow-up appointments.

Your follow-up care plan

You may find it useful to gather together information about the follow-up healthcare you will need in the future. A follow-up care plan is a detailed summary for cancer survivors that may include:

  • your schedule for follow-up medical appointments 
  • your schedule for follow-up tests
  • information about the risk of cancer coming back and what signs or symptoms to watch for
  • any medicines that you are taking, such as maintenance therapy drugs
  • information about long-term side effects of treatment
  • recommendations for a wellness plan

Expert review and references

  • American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). The Importance of Follow-up Care. 2022:
  • Patel JD. What is Scanxiety? How People with Cancer and Survivors can Cope. American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO); 2021:
  • Bui KT, Liang R, Kiely BE, Brown C, Dhillon HM, Blinman P . Scanxiety: a scoping review about scan-associated anxiety . BMJ Open . 2021 : 11:e043215 .
  • Derry-Vick HM, Heathcote LC, Glesby N, Stribling J, Luebke M, Espstein AS, Prigerson HG. Scanxiety among adults with cancer: a scoping review to guide research and interventions. Cancers. 2023: 15: 138.
  • Duhrsen U, Deppermann KM, Pox C, Holstege A. Evidence-based follow-up for adults with cancer. Deutsches Ärzteblatt International. 2019: 116(40): 663-669.
  • MacMillan Cancer Support. Follow-up Care After Treatment. 2020:
  • National Cancer Institute. Follow-up Medical Care. National Institutes of Health; 2023:

Medical disclaimer

The information that the Canadian Cancer Society provides does not replace your relationship with your doctor. The information is for your general use, so be sure to talk to a qualified healthcare professional before making medical decisions or if you have questions about your health.

We do our best to make sure that the information we provide is accurate and reliable but cannot guarantee that it is error-free or complete.

The Canadian Cancer Society is not responsible for the quality of the information or services provided by other organizations and mentioned on, nor do we endorse any service, product, treatment or therapy.

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