What happens after treatment for nasal cavity or paranasal sinus cancer?

For some people with nasal cavity or paranasal sinus cancer, treatment may remove or destroy the cancer. Completing treatment can be both stressful and exciting. You may be relieved to finish treatment, but find it hard not to worry about cancer growing or coming back. (When cancer comes back after treatment, it is called recurrence.) This is a very common concern in people who have had cancer.

It may take a while before your fears lessen, but it may help to know that many cancer survivors have learned to live with this uncertainty and are leading full lives

Follow-up care

If you have completed treatment, your doctors will still want to watch you closely. It is very important to go to all follow-up appointments. People with cancer of the nasal cavity or paranasal sinuses are at risk for developing recurrences, so they must be observed closely after treatment. Your health care team will discuss which tests should be done and how often based on the type and initial stage of your cancer, the type of treatment you received, and the response to that treatment.

Experts typically recommend a doctor’s exam at least every 3 months for the first year after treatment. After a year, the exams can occur less often. For someone who was treated with radiation to the neck, blood tests to look at thyroid function may be needed.

The cancer care team will recommend which other tests should be done and how often. CT or MRI scans of the head and neck and other imaging tests may be ordered shortly after you finish treatment and if new symptoms develop to check for a recurrence or for a new tumor.

Almost any cancer treatment can have side effects. Some may last for a few weeks to several months, but others can last the rest of your life. Don’t hesitate to tell your cancer care team about any symptoms or side effects that bother you so they can help you manage them.

It is very important to report any new symptoms to the doctor right away, because they may prompt your doctor to do tests that could help find recurrent cancer as early as possible, when the likelihood of successful treatment is greatest.

It is important to keep your health insurance. Tests and doctor visits cost a lot, and even though no one wants to think of their cancer coming back, this could happen. If cancer does recur, treatment will depend on the location of the cancer and what treatments you’ve had before.

Seeing a new doctor

At some point after your cancer diagnosis and treatment, you may find yourself seeing a new doctor who does not know anything about your medical history. It is important that you be able to give your new doctor the details of your diagnosis and treatment. Gathering these details soon after treatment may be easier than trying to get them at some point in the future. Make sure you have the following information handy:

  • A copy of your pathology report(s) from any biopsies or surgeries
  • Copies of imaging tests (CT or MRI scans, etc.), which can usually be stored on a CD, DVD, etc.
  • If you had surgery, a copy of your operative report(s)
  • If you were in the hospital, a copy of the discharge summary that doctors prepare when patients are sent home
  • If you had radiation therapy, a summary of the type and dose of radiation and when and where it was given
  • If you had chemotherapy (including targeted therapy), a list of the drugs, drug doses, and when you took them

The doctor may want copies of this information for his records, but always keep copies for yourself.