For Any Cancer Diagnosis
Q. How can a cancer survivor deal with fear of recurrence?
Fear of recurrence is very common and understandable in the context of your recent cancer experience. There are several ways in which you can manage this anxiety in order to live a full and meaningful life:
- Ask your oncologist about chances of recurrence, regular tests to schedule to check for signs that the cancer may have returned and steps you can take to increase the chances that it will not.
- Assess your life and look at your daily routine. Are there things you could improve about your diet? Ways to increase your physical activity? Things you can do to help you relax? To sleep better?
- Read our publication After Treatment Ends: Tools for the Adult Cancer Survivor.
- Listen to our podcast, Communicating with Your Health Care Team After Treatment: Making the Most of Your Visit.
- Consider talking to a professional counselor, such as an oncology social worker at CancerCare who can suggest ways to manage your anxiety and help you process your feelings.
- Many cancer survivors also find support groups very helpful, as they can talk to other survivors with similar worries and fears and learn new coping skills. View support groups at CancerCare.
- Listen to our podcast Fear of Recurrence and Late Effects: Living with Uncertainty.
- Talk to your trusted friends or family members about your concerns. Even if there are just one or two people with whom you feel comfortable sharing your fears, this can be a powerful way to get some relief from your anxiety.
- Make sure you continue to engage in hobbies and socialize with your friends is an essential and healthy form of distraction.
- Listen to our podcast Survivors Too: Communicating With and Among Family, Friends and Loved Ones.
- Reflect on what makes your life meaningful, both before and after cancer. What values and activities are important to you? How can you continue to honor those things you hold dear? Focusing on the bigger picture can help minimize the anxiety and remind you what you can do in the here-and-now to live a full life.
- Read our publication Strengthening the Spirit.
- Listen to our podcast Finding Hope and Meaning After Treatment.
For Ovarian Cancer
Q. I was diagnosed a few years ago with ovarian cancer and have finished my treatment, but now I'm afraid of recurrence. Is this normal?
After a diagnosis of ovarian cancer, a woman can feel vulnerable and experience a lot of uncertainty. The emotional, social and physical experience of having ovarian cancer can be overwhelming and living with this experience often leaves one with a fear of this happening again.
While your fears are typical, at times they many vary. For example, around the time of your check-up, blood tests, or when a milestones or anniversary is approaching you may feel sad, irritable, or anxious. Allowing yourself to acknowledge and accept your feelings is the first step. Developing ways to manage these feelings is extremely important and a way to be kind to yourself. An important act of kindness to yourself is to live in the now and find ways to balance your fear of recurrence with enjoying your life, and the hope for continued wellness.
Ways to manage fear of recurrence:
- Get support. Many women find comfort in a support group. Share your feelings and learn how others are coping with challenging and common fears, which can provide you with a community of strength and understanding. You can also speak with a CancerCare oncology social worker about your concerns.
- Take good care of yourself. Get enough sleep and reduce stress. Find things to do that are comforting such as meditation, yoga class, writing in a journal, or spending time with your pet. We all have activities we find soothing and it is important to develop these and do them when you need to.
- Communicate. Share your feelings with the people who are important to you. Let them know how you are, and what they can do to help. Set limits if you need to by deciding what you can commit to and what you can do another day.