Chemotherapy: When should one seek medical advice?
Cancer survivors should be able to talk openly with their doctor. You and your doctor need information to treat you appropriately after completion of chemotherapy. Most cancers have a risk of recurrence (locally or at a distant site even years after initial treatment), therefore, it is important to know about the signs and symptoms of which you have to be watchful. Follow up care is essential after treatment no matter what type of cancer you have had. Your doctor will plan a follow up schedule based on the type of cancer, type of chemotherapy you had and your overall health. During your follow up visits, the doctor will check you for:
- Side effects from treatment.
- Recurrence of cancer.
- Spread of cancer to other parts of the body (metastasis).
- If tests are needed (such as CT scan and MRI scan).
Apart from this, you should be aware of the symptoms before your regular follow-up schedule. Some symptoms, which necessitate a visit to the doctor before scheduled follow-up include:
- Pain that is bothersome (does not go away or is becoming worse).
- Any new growth, lumps or swelling (anywhere in the body; even if distant from the site of original tumour).
- Recurrent or frequent nausea and/or vomiting.
- Frequent or recurrent diarrhea.
- Lack of appetite or difficulty in swallowing.
- Unintended weight loss.
- Excessive fatigue or tiredness (out of proportion to your physical activity).
- Fever or cough that persists for more than a few days.
- New bruises, rashes or bleeding (on skin, from mouth or anywhere on the body).
- Emotional problems such as anxiety or depression, which you find difficult to manage.
- Other signs that your doctor has warned you about.
These are some signs and symptoms for which you should consult your doctor. Your doctor can advise you better regarding the symptoms about which you should be careful. It is important to discuss with the doctor during the first follow-up visit about symptoms that suggest the recurrence of cancer. When you go for a scheduled follow-up:
- Note down the important symptoms, which are bothersome and describe your symptoms briefly.
- Talk openly with your doctor (request your doctor or nurse to have a discussion in a private room with the door closed).
- Ask important concerns that you may be having, initially (in case the doctor runs out of time).
- Take a family member or friend with you, who can help you to understand what the doctor said and also ask questions regarding your symptoms and problems.
Source: Expert Content Dec 16, 2011
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