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Life After Cancer: Making a Survivorship Care Plan

Life after cancer can be full of questions. It can feel overwhelming. But your healthcare team can help you through it. They can help you build a survivorship care plan. With this plan, you can move forward with confidence and peace of mind.

A survivorship care plan is your personal map to life as a survivor. Your plan should include a guide to the care you need to stay well. And it should have a detailed record of your cancer history. This is for you to share with all of your healthcare providers. Make sure you keep a copy of your survivorship care plan for yourself.

Is a survivorship care plan required?

A survivorship care plan is not required. But it can be very helpful as you adjust to life after cancer treatment. The plan can help you collect all the details about your cancer and the treatments you had. You can then refer to it when needed. It's also helpful for your loved ones.

It’s a record you can share with other healthcare providers who take care of you. It can help you know what to do to stay healthy after treatment. And it can tell you how to watch for future problems. It can also give you information to help handle things like emotional, legal, and financial issues.

What are the benefits of a survivorship care plan?

A survivorship care plan can help you: 

  • Organize your healthcare records and schedules in 1 document. This makes it easy to update and share information.

  • Move your routine healthcare back to your main providers. These include your primary care provider, dentist, gynecologist, and others. This is so you can get exams, screenings, vaccines, and other preventive care.

  • Know when and with whom to schedule follow-up appointments.

  • Find support to help manage the after-effects of cancer care. Physical and emotional after-effects are common.

  • Know which symptoms could mean a recurring or second (new) cancer. This is so you can catch it as early as possible and improve your outcome.

  • Build a healthy lifestyle that works for you. This will help you handle or even prevent future health problems.

  • Reduce the chance you will ever need emergency care or a hospital stay.

What’s in a survivorship care plan?

A survivorship care plan has a lot of details in it. It’s a record of your cancer care. It's also a map to help you in the weeks, months, and years ahead. The plan should list the kinds of care you need after treatment. It should include who will be giving that care and how these providers can work together to help you. A good plan will include information about your cancer, treatment, follow-up care, and more.

About your cancer

  • Your cancer type, date it was found, and stage, grade, and tumor markers

  • Diagnostic tests you had and their results

  • Genetic tests you had and the results

  • If family members may have genetic risk factors for cancer

  • Information about your family's cancer history

About your treatment

  • All types of treatment you had, with dates and places

  • All medicines and doses used

  • Side effects, reactions, or complications you had

  • Details about clinical trials you were part of

  • Other care you had, such as from a dietitian, physical therapist, or counselor

  • Contact details for all your cancer care providers

About your follow-up care

  • Contact details for all your follow-up healthcare providers

  • Referrals to specialists you will need to see, such as a cardiologist or endocrinologist

  • Referrals for counseling, support groups, and other types of emotional help

  • Dates of follow-up visits

  • Follow-up tests you need

  • Long-term medicines you need (include names, doses, and purpose)

  • Other ongoing treatment you need

  • Treatment after-effects you have or may get, such as heart, lung, or fertility problems

  • Tips for coping with after-effects such as fatigue, chemo brain, or problems with sex

  • List of symptoms or problems to report to your healthcare providers

  • Your risk for recurring cancer or a second cancer, and symptoms to watch for

  • A schedule for cancer screening tests

  • A list of all medicines you take, including vitamins, herbs, and supplements (include doses, and when and why you take them)

  • Your allergies and sensitivities

Other helpful information

A survivorship care plan may give tips to help you be healthy, such as:

  • Eating a healthy diet

  • Getting exercise

  • Getting to or staying at a healthy weight

  • Not using any form of tobacco or making a plan to quit

  • Not drinking alcohol, or limiting use

  • Using sunscreen

It may also help you with:

  • Health insurance problems

  • Job concerns linked to health and cancer

  • Financial aid

  • Life insurance issues

  • Other helpful resources

Talking with your healthcare team 

Ask your healthcare providers if they can put together a survivorship care plan for you. Not all cancer care teams do this. But you can also make your own. A good resource is:

American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO)

Cancer Treatment and Survivorship Care Plans

Talk with your healthcare team and ask for help with the details.

Online Medical Reviewer: Jessica Gotwals RN BSN MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Turley Jr PA-C
Online Medical Reviewer: Todd Gersten MD
Date Last Reviewed: 10/1/2023
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