Follow-up care for kidney cancer refers to the after-treatment protocols conducted by the healthcare team. The main focus is to lookout for recurrence, manage the side effects, and to monitor the overall health of the patient. The follow-up care will include routine physical examinations, various medical tests (blood tests, urine tests), and scans to monitor the overall health status of the patient. A survivorship care plan is designed with the physician as per the health condition and requirements.
Proper care and guidance should be provided for patients to cope with mental stress, anxiety, and depression post-treatment of kidney cancers. The primary goal of follow-up care post successful treatment is to check for any possible recurrence. Another important aspect of follow-up care is managing and relieving the side effects of treatment. Today, most cancer care centers have support groups and services that offer survivors the support they require. These support services will have various therapies, counseling, and other sessions to address the emotional concerns of the survivors.
Follow-Up Care for Kidney Cancer
Care for people detected with kidney cancers doesn’t end with active treatment. The health care team will develop a post-treatment care strategy as per a patient’s disease condition, called follow-up care. Every disease survivor should have a proper follow-up care routine. Follow-up care refers to seeing the health care provider post-treatment for regular medical check-ups and screening to evaluate your post-treatment health progress and disease condition.
The follow-up care will include routine physical examinations, various medical tests (blood tests, urine tests) and scans, to monitor a patient’s overall health status 1. These tests and scan results will help the doctor analyze and detect any variation in the patient’s well-being, any other complication, symptoms or signs indicating any disease or side effects due to the treatment. Follow-up care focuses on addressing a patient’s physical health issues and prioritizes their mental well-being. Kidney cancer survivors should utilize the opportunity to address any emotional, mental concerns to their doctor or health care team.
You can design a survivorship care plan along with your physician. A survivorship care plan will consist of a full, detailed summary of your treatment, along with a follow-up plan designed as per your health condition and requirements. This plan will function as a tracker to monitor your condition post-treatment. It will also ensure that you get regular, competent care to prevent any chance of the disease condition recurring or any side effects of treatment becoming worse. Follow-up care is very important, especially in the case of severe disorders like kidney cancers. As their behavior cannot be predicted, the possibility of these cancers recurring post successful treatment also cannot be discarded. Doctors can check for recurrence or distant metastasis through these follow-up check-ups and help treat them.
In follow-up care, the doctor may recommend rehabilitation. Rehabilitation includes various services such as therapies (physical and mental), pain management, career counseling, emotional counseling, diet, and nutrition planning 2. The ultimate goal of rehab is to aid survivors to regain control over their lives. It also encourages them to be self-sufficient, active, and productive as much as possible. Rehabilitative therapies and sessions help cope with, treat, and relieve these symptoms or side effects post successful cancer treatment. Follow-up care and rehabilitation collectively focus on improving the quality and comfort of the life of cancer survivors. In the case of patients who have received treatment for kidney cancers, rehab services will include physical therapies to help people in the movement and other physical activities. A rehabilitation medicine specialist can ensure that the patient gets the most appropriate and effective rehab services.
Sometimes after treatment, the patient may find it challenging to perform basic physical tasks like walking, exercising etc. Hence, in such circumstances, caregivers and healthcare teams should provide sufficient mental support and encouragement to the patient and help them find support groups or services to strengthen their body and mind.
Evaluating follow-up treatment
Kidney cancers can be unpredictable at times; hence, proper follow-up check-ups are vital even after successful treatment and cure. A doctor who is familiar with your medical history will be able to guide you with personalized information regarding your risk of disease recurrence during follow-up check-ups.
The doctor may ask you different questions to evaluate your health condition. Depending on your disease condition’s type, stage, and gravity during the initial diagnosis and treatment, the doctor may prescribe various medical tests (blood/urine/imaging tests) and scans. Survivors can get triggered by anxiety and stress while coming for follow-up check-ups and waiting for the test results. They will be anxious about cancer recurring again in the body. In such cases, survivors must openly communicate their fears with their doctor, who will help them get the necessary support.
Patients should talk with their doctor or health care team regarding the treatment they will receive as per their cancer condition and what side effects they should expect, well before the treatment begins. If any side effects are expected to cause trouble, proper treatment and care should be provided to the patients to manage and relieve them.
People who have received treatment for kidney cancers are urged to make healthy life choices. They are encouraged to follow established guidelines like eating a healthy balanced diet, maintaining a healthy body weight, undergoing screening tests as and when required. Participating in physical activities without straining the body will also be beneficial. Talk with your doctor or healthcare team, and design a plan to keep up a healthy lifestyle.
Managing Side Effects of Treatment
People may experience many long-term and short-term side effects while receiving treatment for cancer. The late side effects or long-term side effects tend to last for a more extended period (even months or years) post-treatment. These side effects can affect the physical and mental well-being of a survivor.
Kidney cancer survivors often have a single kidney post-treatment; hence monitoring the kidney function is extremely important for the rest of their lives. Some people experience long-term side effects of the surgical procedures, and some survivors experience shooting pain from the surgical scar. Also, kidney cancer survivors who have received treatment for the disease are at a higher risk of developing prostate and colon cancers.
- 1.Kassouf W, Siemens R, Morash C, et al. Follow-up guidelines after radical or partial nephrectomy for localized and locally advanced renal cell carcinoma. CUAJ. Published online April 25, 2013:73. doi:10.5489/cuaj.1028
- 2.Doehn C, Grünwald V, Steiner T, Follmann M, Rexer H, Krege S. The Diagnosis, Treatment, and Follow-up of Renal Cell Carcinoma. Deutsches Ärzteblatt international. Published online September 5, 2016. doi:10.3238/arztebl.2016.0590