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Survivorship: Life After Cancer

Even after you’ve completed treatment, you continue to receive medical care and supportive services. Mays Cancer Center, home to UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center, offers survivorship care to support the whole patient — mind, body and spirit.

Our survivorship care transitions you from the intensive cancer treatment process to a focus on physical fitness, nutrition, mental health and financial stability. You continue to see your cancer team for health care to prevent cancer from coming back. Our additional survivorship services support your general wellness and help you stay active.

Follow-up care after cancer treatment

At Mays Cancer Center, we’re known for advanced research, education and care with a focus on prevention.

Your survivorship care plan begins with appropriate screenings to maximize your health and check for signs of cancer. You may see us every few months for a few years, depending on the type of cancer and your ongoing health needs. At these visits, your original cancer care team monitors your health with a plan that includes:

  • Physical exams
  • Discussion of your recent medical history to keep track of any symptoms
  • Monitoring for early detection of new or returning cancers, with imaging and other appropriate screening measures
  • Management of any side effects related to cancer or its treatment

We stay in touch with your primary care provider about your follow-up care and any new developments in your health. It’s important that you continue to see them for your ongoing general health care.

Long-term effects of cancer and its treatment

Cancer and its treatments can produce side effects that show up months or even years later. Tell us about any new and ongoing signs or symptoms so that we can address them promptly.

Fatigue and pain commonly occur soon after cancer treatment is complete. We monitor you for other possible short-term side effects, including:

  • Dental and oral problems after treatment for head or neck cancers
  • Endocrine (hormone) changes, including hypothyroidism, that can develop after chemotherapy or hormone ablation therapy
  • Incontinence after anal, bladder, colon, prostate or rectal cancers
  • Learning and memory problems, also called “chemo brain,” related to certain chemotherapy drugs
  • Lymphedema, swelling in arms or legs after treatment to lymph nodes
  • Neuropathy, or nerve damage, after surgery, radiation or certain chemotherapy drugs
  • Sexual dysfunction, especially after cancers in reproductive organs

Some issues may not appear for years, and you may not notice symptoms until you age or experience other problems. These include:

  • Infertility after radiation therapy in the lower abdomen
  • Organ damage to the heart, kidneys, liver or lungs after radiation or chemotherapy
  • Osteoporosis after certain treatments for leukemia, lymphoma, breast cancer or prostate cancer 

Survivorship program and services for adult patients

Survivorship care at Mays Cancer Center complements monitoring and treatment provided by your care team. We take an active approach to your life after cancer with a customized plan for physical fitness, nutrition, mental health and finances. 

Physical rehabilitation

Our rehabilitation providers know that good health starts with physical fitness. We work closely with you to set goals, such as 30 minutes of exercise, five days a week. Together, we design a plan to rebuild your strength and ability to function. You may meet with one or more of our:

  • Physical medicine and rehabilitation physicians
  • Physical therapists
  • Occupational therapists
  • Speech-language pathologists

Nutrition services

Another key factor in your wellness is healthy eating, which research has shown to help lower the risk of cancer. Meet with our registered dietitians to develop an eating plan that incorporates your preferences and health needs such as diabetes or gluten intolerance. Some guidelines include:

  • Eating more fish and poultry
  • Eating more vegetables and fruits for fiber, vitamins and minerals
  • Limiting red and processed meats
  • Limiting alcohol and foods with added sugar

Mental health counseling

After focusing on fighting cancer for so long, you may be dealing with social, psychological and emotional challenges. Our mental health professionals offer survivorship services to help you enjoy life and get back to the activities you love.

At Mays Cancer Center, you can choose to work with our psychologist who specializes in cancer care or a cancer social worker certified in counseling. We can help you, your family members and caregivers with common issues such as:

  • Fear of recurrence
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Body image
  • Loss and grief
  • Relationships at home and work

Financial counseling

Cancer can take a toll on your finances, from treatment costs and travel expenses to work issues. Financial stress may affect your recovery after cancer treatment. Our financial counselors and social workers can help.

We review your treatment plan, out-of-pocket costs, travel and other expenses to help find ways to save money or cover costs. We can also help you navigate health care exchanges to see if a different health insurance plan could save you money.

Additional resources for cancer survivors

Programs for cancer survivors include:

  • Living Beyond Cancer from A to Z is our annual symposium for people with cancer, cancer survivors, and their loved ones and caregivers. Sessions cover general cancer-related topics, specific cancer types and support services
  • The Ecumenical Center provides educational programs, training for religious workers and health professionals, and individual and group counseling for adults, children and families.
  • The Childhood Cancer Survivorship Program at Mays Cancer Center provides health care and supportive services designed for children.