What to Expect From Your Follow-up Appointment

March 28, 2024

Follow-up care is a major part of the brain tumor treatment path. The journey for people diagnosed with a brain tumor does not end when active treatment has finished. Your health care team will continue to check that the tumor has not come back, manage any side effects, and monitor your overall health. This is called follow-up care.

After treatment, expect routine physical exams, tests, and MRI scans to monitor your recovery. Due to the potential for tumor recurrence, the frequency of follow-ups will be tailored to your specific case. Your healthcare team will discuss and establish a personalized schedule. This is also a good time to talk with your doctor about who will lead your follow-up care. Some survivors continue to see their specialist, while others transition back to the care of their primary care doctor or another health care professional. This decision depends on several factors, including the type and grade of tumor, treatments received, side effects, health insurance rules, and your personal preferences.

Some key topics to discuss with your doctor during your follow-up appointment:

  • Symptoms and changes: Inform your doctor about any new or worsening symptoms you’ve experienced since your last visit, such as headaches, seizures, changes in vision or speech, weakness, or cognitive difficulties. Even subtle changes should be reported, as they could indicate a progression or recurrence of the tumor.
  • Medication and Side Effects: Discuss any medications you’re taking, including over-the-counter drugs and supplements. Mention any side effects you’ve experienced from your medications, such as nausea, fatigue, or changes in mood or appetite.
  • Treatment Progress: Provide updates on your response to treatment, whether you’ve undergone surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or other interventions. Discuss any challenges or concerns you’ve encountered during treatment and how you’ve been managing them.
  • Quality of Life: Talk to your doctor about how your symptoms and treatment are affecting your daily life, including your ability to work, engage in activities, and maintain relationships. Be honest about any physical, emotional, or cognitive changes you’ve noticed and how they’re impacting your overall well-being.
  • Emotional Well-being: Share any feelings of anxiety, depression, or distress you may be experiencing. Your doctor can provide resources and support to help you cope with the emotional challenges of living with a brain tumor.
  • Follow-up Care Plan: Discuss your ongoing care plan, including the frequency of follow-up appointments, imaging tests, and other monitoring procedures. Understand the importance of regular follow-up visits in detecting any recurrence or progression of the tumor early.
  • Questions and Concerns: Take the opportunity to ask any questions or raise any concerns you have about your condition, treatment, or prognosis. Write down any questions beforehand to ensure you cover everything you want to discuss during the appointment.
  • Future Plans: Talk to your doctor about your long-term goals and aspirations, and how your treatment plan aligns with them. Discuss any lifestyle changes or adjustments you may need to make moving forward.

The Waiting Game:

Get used to spending a considerable amount of time in waiting rooms. Appointments rarely start on time, and the minutes can feel like hours. Bring a book, your favorite music, or a supportive friend – you’re going to need distractions.

Personalities you may encounter within your medical team:

1. Cold Efficiency

Some doctors approach their job with a laser-like focus on the facts. They may seem detached or brisk, but it doesn’t mean they lack empathy. These professionals often prioritize efficiency, ensuring they cover all aspects of your care. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification or express your feelings – they appreciate direct communication.

2. Compassionate Listener:

On the other end of the spectrum, some doctors prioritize the emotional side of your journey. They’re the ones who take a moment to ask how you’re truly feeling and address your fears. While their empathy is comforting, be prepared for appointments to run longer as they prioritize your emotional well-being.

3. Realistic Communicator:

Brain cancer is tough, and some doctors won’t sugarcoat it. They’ll give it to you straight, discussing potential complications and the harsh realities of the disease. While this honesty can be jarring, it’s crucial for informed decision-making. Surround yourself with a support system to help process these tough conversations.

4. The Multitasker:

In the fast-paced world of healthcare, some doctors might appear like they’re juggling a thousand things at once. They’re managing multiple cases and responsibilities, so it’s up to you to ensure your concerns are heard. Prepare a list of questions beforehand and be assertive about getting the answers you need.

5. The Collaborator:

Fortunately, many doctors fall into the collaborative category. They view your treatment as a partnership, involving you in decisions and considering your input. These doctors value open communication and actively seek your perspective on your own care.

6. The Bearer of Bad News:

Sadly, there may come a time when you encounter a doctor delivering difficult news. It’s a tough aspect of facing brain cancer, and finding the right balance between realism and hope can be challenging. Seek a support network to lean on during these challenging moments.

In the world of brain cancer appointments, you’ll encounter a spectrum of personalities. Each doctor brings their unique approach, and understanding these dynamics can help you navigate the appointments more effectively.