What happens at the end of treatment?

When your child first finishes treatment they will be seen frequently at the hospital. How often, varies between treatment centres but is usually every 4-6 weeks during the first year. At the very beginning they may still be seen every 1-2 weeks.

As time goes by the length between visits usually increases to every three months in the second year, until by the time five years have passed your child may only need to be seen once a year.

The main purpose of a follow-up visit is so the doctor can give your child a general check up and arrange any tests they think are needed. Your child will be weighed and measured at each visit, to check they are growing normally. Blood counts are checked until they have returned to normal, possibly longer if your child had leukaemia.

Initially these will be to check that there are no signs of the cancer coming back. The frequency of scans, X-rays and other investigations will depend on the treatment your child has had. Your doctor will explain this in more detail. As time passes the visits increasingly focus on making sure that any long-term side effects of the treatment are found and, if necessary, treated. The chance of cancer returning lessens as time passes.  

To begin with, you may find it difficult not to worry every time your child is unwell, even though the most likely cause is a normal childhood illness. This is perfectly natural and will hopefully reduce over time. 

This is understandably a common question. Most children won’t have any problems, but there are a few potential things to look out for:

  • many bruises at the same time that couldn’t have been caused by normal activity (all children get some bruising)
  • repeated headaches/vomiting that are worse first thing in the morning
  • lumps when your child is otherwise well. Small lumps in the neck, called lymph nodes, are very common in children when they have a viral illness, such as a cold or sore throat.

A few children are left with disabilities as a result of their cancer or treatment and may not be able to do all they could before, but generally your child should be encouraged to return to normal activities, as soon as they feel or are able to. If your child has been left with a disability, returning to life as before can be very difficult. 

Some children feel very tired after certain treatments but the majority will recover within a few months of finishing treatment. When children first finish treatment they often feel tired because they are not as strong as before, they may have lost weight and they are not used to joining in all their usual activities. It takes time to build up their stamina. This is helped by eating a good balanced diet and introducing activities gradually. Each child is different but hopefully all children are soon able to attend school full time and join in sport. 

This depends on a number of things, including the treatment your child had. Follow-up often goes on for many years due to effects being long-term, or presenting some time down the line. It may be necessary to have scans or occasional blood tests.

This information was written by the Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group (CCLG)

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