Q. How can a cancer survivor deal with fear of recurrence?

A.

Many feelings can come up once cancer treatment ends. On the one hand, it is a time of hope and relief, but it can also be a time of fear and anxiety. Fear of recurrence is not at all uncommon for cancer survivors and you are not alone. Take control of the things you are able to. Everyone has their own way of coping, but here are a few practical suggestions:

  • Take care of yourself by making healthy choices which may include increasing physical activity and adjusting your diet. Engage in activities such as yoga, meditation, or other relaxation techniques.
  • Seek out support. Speaking with others in a support group can help relieve anxiety.
  • Explore spiritual connections. Read our fact sheet, Strengthening the Spirit.
  • Stay active in your follow-up care by asking specific questions.

Questions to ask your doctor about recurrence:

  • What is the likelihood that my cancer may return?
  • Are there any steps I can take to keep it from returning?
  • How can I know if it’s back? Are there things I should I look for?
  • What tests will I have that could detect a recurrence? How often should I be tested?

Our publications, Communicating With Your Health Care Team and Doctor Can We Talk?, offer practical suggestions that will prepare you for your doctor appointments.

Other resources include:

Finally, expressing your feelings to a counselor one-on-one in a nurturing environment can be helpful. The process of openly coping with emotions helps many people feel less anxious. You may also join a post-treatment support group to learn how others cope with fear of recurrence.