People with CLL need regular medical follow-up after they have completed treatment. It is important to assess the full effect of therapy as well as to identify any return of progressive disease that may require additional therapy. Some treatments can cause long-term effects or late effects.
Your doctor will let you know how often you need physical exams and blood tests to check your blood cell counts. From time to time, you may need bone marrow tests or fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) tests that can detect chromosome changes in CLL cells. Your oncologist will screen you for cancer recurrence and the development of a secondary cancer.
The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) produces Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology for most cancers, which many doctors follow. Their guidelines are among the most comprehensive and most frequently updated clinical practice guidelines available in any area of medicine. You can download guidelines at the NCCN website for helpful information about CLL to discuss with your doctor.
Some treatment centers have comprehensive follow-up care clinics for cancer survivors. To find a long-term survival clinic near you, visit The National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship.
Long-Term and Late Effects of Treatment
Some side effects of chemotherapy, such as fatigue, can linger for months or years after treatment. Other medical conditions like heart disease and other cancers may not appear until years after treatment ends.
Not everyone suffers from long-term effects and late effects of treatment, but for some patients the effects can range from mild to severe. Your risk for developing long-term or late effects can be influenced by:
- your treatment type and duration
- your age at the time of treatment
- your gender
- your overall health
Long-term and late effects can impact your physical, mental and cognitive (brain function) health in several ways, including:
- heart or thyroid problems
- a secondary cancer
- a low energy level
- hearing loss
- posttraumatic stress disorder
- an inability to concentrate or focus
Researchers are working to improve their understanding of long-term and late effects and create guidelines for follow-up care. If you'd like to contribute to this important research, you can take part in a clinical trial that collects data on long-term and late effects.