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PharmancyAlthough your cancer may now be in remission, you may still experience stress and anxiety as a result of your cancer journey. In particular, some patients report feelings of stress and anxiety that increase up until they have the follow-up exam and tests, and then decrease as soon as they are told there is no evidence of disease and that the cancer has not returned. The term for this specific type of stress and anxiety is “scanxiety.”4 Macdonald N, Shapiro A, Bender C, Paolantonio M, Coombs J. Experiences and perspectives on the GIST patient journey. Patient Prefer Adherence. 2012;6:253-62.

Other toxicities may be identified at the time of the follow-up exams. For example, approximately 25 percent of patients who had surgery and radiation therapy combinations developed hypothyroidism, the decrease of thyroid hormone production, post-treatment.5 Alexander MV, Zajtchuk JT, Henderson RL. Hypothyroidism and wound healing: occurrence after head and neck radiation and surgery. Arch Otolaryngol. 1982 May;108(5):289-91.

You may experience ongoing functional challenges after your treatment is completed, depending on what type of cancer removal surgery, reconstruction or prosthetics you had and how the side effects of other treatments affected you. Some people recover completely and find a “new normal” with relative ease. Others continue to struggle, sometimes for the rest of their lives, to overcome functional challenges with breathing, swallowing and speaking. You may receive speech and/or swallowing rehabilitation; prosthetic devices to help you eat, breathe or speak; and perhaps ongoing therapy to help you continue to improve your quality of life.

A great many head and neck cancer patients adapt quite well and return to a full and rich life after achieving remission.

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One of the most important things that helped me get through that period was my wife taking me outside. We would go to a park, or she would make me get out of bed and sit outside to get some fresh air.Jason S. (tonsil cancer survivor)

References

1 National Cancer Institute (NCI) Website. Accessed at http://www.cancer.gov/ on February 19, 2013.

2 Referenced with permission from The NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines®) for Head and Neck Cancers V.2.2014. © National Comprehensive Cancer Network, Inc 2014. All rights reserved. Accessed June 18, 2014. To view the most recent and complete version of the guideline, go online to www.NCCN.org. NATIONAL COMPREHENSIVE CANCER NETWORK®, NCCN®, NCCN GUIDELINES®, and all other NCCN Content are trademarks owned by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, Inc.

3 Argiris A, Karamouzis MV, Raben D, Ferris RL. Head and neck cancer. Lancet. 2008;371:1695-1709.

4 Macdonald N, Shapiro A, Bender C, Paolantonio M, Coombs J. Experiences and perspectives on the GIST patient journey. Patient Prefer Adherence. 2012;6:253-62.

5 Alexander MV, Zajtchuk JT, Henderson RL. Hypothyroidism and wound healing: occurrence after head and neck radiation and surgery. Arch Otolaryngol. 1982 May;108(5):289-91.