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Dear Iris: Cancer Free. Now What?

Dear Iris,

I’m done with cancer treatment and my team says I’m cancer free. I'm so happy to hear this, but now I want to focus on trying to heal my body. Are there things I can do to be proactive with my health?


Dear F,

I’m so happy that you’ve received great news from your oncologist. When you’re focused on keeping your health and wellness a priority, sometimes a checklist can help. Here’s what I’d recommend:    

  • Continue to check in with your oncologist as frequently as they recommend. It’s important that you’re monitored for any potential late side effects of treatment with a physical, labs, and/or imaging (as needed). 

  • Follow up with your primary care physician for yearly physicals and recommended preventative screenings such as colonoscopy, mammograms, pap smears, etc. 

  • If you’re feeling up for it and your physician has cleared you, exercise can be a great way to keep your body healthy. 30 minutes per day — at once or broken up throughout the day — can be beneficial, whether you’re walking or doing light resistance training.  

  • Try to eat 2-3 servings of vegetables and 1-2 fruits a day, along with proteins like fish, skinless poultry, and dried beans/lentils. Make whole grains like brown rice and fats like avocado and nuts part of your daily routine.  

  • Prioritize your sleep. Getting enough nighttime rest is an important part of allowing your body the chance to heal. 

It’s also important to mention that for many people the emotional aspects of cancer treatment can show up once planned treatment is over.

Often there’s a disconnect between how you (and others) hope to feel about the end of treatment — relieved, happy, or grateful — with more complicated emotions such as fear, sadness, uncertainty, and missing the support of your treatment team. These emotions are common, and seeking mental health support can be a helpful part of post-treatment recovery.

Whether you choose to meet with an Iris Mental Health Therapist or another professional, developing skills for managing uncertainty and health-related anxiety can be an important part of moving forward after cancer.

Missed last week? Dear Iris: Well, This is Embarrassing

Lindsay Boudinot, RN, BSN, OCN

Senior Oncology Nurse

Iris Oncology

Lindsay Boudinot began her career as an emergency room nurse working in a level one trauma center in St. Louis, later transitioning into a breast cancer nurse navigator. In this role, she was able to work with patients from diagnosis, through treatment and into survivorship. Lindsay’s passion is empowering patients with knowledge and understanding of their cancer, treatment, resources, and side effect management techniques so that they can live their best lives possible despite difficult circumstances.

This article meets Iris standards for medical accuracy. It has been fact-checked by the Iris Clinical Editorial Board, our team of oncology experts who ensure that the content is evidence based and up to date. The Iris Clinical Editorial Board includes board-certified oncologists and pharmacists, psychologists, advanced practice providers, licensed clinical social workers, oncology-certified nurses, and dietitians.