What is frontline cancer treatment?
Frontline, or first-line therapy, is the standard of care treatment given when a disease is diagnosed. For cancer patients, that often involves surgery, followed by radiation and chemotherapy. Frontline therapy is what is considered the best level of care for a particular disease, but if it isn’t sufficient, or there are severe side effects, other treatments or medications may be added or substituted.
When a patient finishes with this first-line treatment, there is a lot to consider physically and emotionally.
Changing relationship with your medical team
One thing patients can expect when they finish with frontline therapy is that they will see their oncology team far less often. Visits could be once a month, or just a few times a year. Some patients feel unmoored by this reduction in care.
As treatment comes to an end, it is a good idea to ask your doctor for an end of treatment summary. This summary includes details about the original diagnosis (how it was made, stage, tumor type) as well as the treatment involved. This is helpful information for future doctors to have. It is also good at this time to talk about one’s larger health picture, including any longer-term side effects from treatment. For instance, some treatments may have an effect on bone density, so it is important to know how to manage other aspects of your health.
Adapting to the new normal
While it can be considered a milestone and a relief to finish with treatment, it can come with complicated feelings. While friends and family may be ready to move on – whether that’s getting back to work, or just ‘normal life,’ — patients themselves may just be catching up to the emotions of the diagnosis. They may struggle with their body image, or physical aspects leftover from treatment such as neuropathy, fatigue or sleep issues. Some patients suffer from memory loss. It can take up to a year to return to baseline.
Furthermore, patients may feel ‘scanxiety’ every time they have their CA125 levels monitored or go for a CT scan, wondering if they will experience recurrence. It is important to remember that you are not alone in your feelings, and speaking with a professional or finding a support group can be quite beneficial. It is also important to recognize that a cancer diagnosis and treatment affects not only the patient, but the entire family unit. OCRA has a patient support team, led by an oncology social worker, who can help you and your loved ones through this next phase.
The National Cancer Institute also provides information about facing life after treatment of cancer.
Next steps after frontline treatment
When the initial cancer treatment comes to an end, many see this as an opportunity for new beginnings. Perhaps you’ll want to take a holistic approach to your overall health picture and explore changes in diet or physical activity. Some explore other methods for self care.
It is also a time for many to take stock and look for ways to give back to the community. OCRA offers many ways for survivors to get involved and welcomes all participation and support – whether as an OCRA Hero who helps to raise critical funds for lifesaving research, an Advocate Leader who engages with their elected officials, a Survivors Teaching Students volunteer who helps to educate rising healthcare professionals about ovarian cancer, or as a Woman to Woman peer mentor to someone else just facing a gynecologic cancer diagnosis.