What Happens after Treatment?

Cancer treatments for metastatic cancer are often used to extend life, not to cure the cancer. Unfortunately, treatment doesn't work for all people. Many of these advanced cancers come back or progress. Each patient is different, so you'll want to make a follow-up plan with your doctor after treatment.

A worthy goal is often to try to feel better, longer. You can do things that make you feel healthier like eating well, exercising daily stop smoking and reducing stress.

Patients who get immunotherapy can often resume their life, to include work and exercise. Feeling tired is often a problem at first. The good news is that this often goes away soon after treatment ends. With advanced cancer, people don't feel very well and sometimes treatment can make them feel better.

Are There Long-term Side Effects?

Each person has a different course of treatment so responses are different for everyone. Immunotherapy, by itself, most often brings few long term side effects. Still, some patients do have long-term autoimmune side effects like thyroid problems or diabetes.

Emotional Support Before, During and After Treatment

Each cancer patient feels a huge range of emotions from fear to joy. It's vital to tell your healthcare provider how you feel. Ask any and all questions and talk about your concerns. Often, there are support systems to help you through tough times. There are experienced people who can offer answers and support.

The Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network has a helpful site with support groups and information.

Sexuality and Incontinence After BCG

Your healthcare provider can work with you directly, but in general:

  • Do not have sex for 48 hours after BCG treatment. You will have BCG bacteria in your urine after treatment. It's best to avoid sex for a few days to avoid exposure. 
  • After BCG treatment, you can have sex but some side effects may lower your interest. The small tube used with BCG can cause irritation. These symptoms should go away after a day or two.
  • Use condoms. A condom during sex for up to six weeks after treatment will protect you and your partner from the bacteria. You can ask if this is helpful for you.
  • Try to avoid pregnancy. If you can become pregnant, use birth control during treatment to prevent pregnancy.

If you've had bladder surgery, it's likely to change your sex life. It helps to talk about your feelings and things you can do. You can find other ways to be intimate with your partner after treatment. You (and your partner) may benefit from the advice of a counselor who specializes in sexual issues.

Your healthcare provider can refer you to professionals who offer sexual counseling after cancer. You can also find a certified therapist near you on the website of the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists.

Prevention of Recurrence

Although there is no guarantee that your cancer won't recur, there are certain lifestyle changes that are known to be helpful.

Things that can improve your quality of life are:

  • No smoking
  • Drinking lots of water
  • Eating a healthy diet with fewer processed foods
  • Exercising daily
  • Trying to reduce stress

Going through cancer treatment and the fear of recurrence can be very stressful. Your healthcare provider may recommend a cancer support group or individual counseling to help you manage your stress and anxiety.

What is the Plan If Cancer Continues to Recur or Grow?

Remember that each person is unique and each body responds differently to therapy. It is important to take good care of yourself and remain in contact with your healthcare provider. For very aggressive cancers, clinical trials are often recommended as they may offer additional hope.

Clinical trials are research studies that involve people that test new treatments or procedures to see if they are safe and effective. By taking part in in a clinical trial, you may help yourself, and you can help move science forward.