Fear of Cancer Recurrence

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Recurrence is one of the most frequently identified fears of patients who have been diagnosed with cancer.  Recurrence means the cancer comes back.  It could be locally in the same region.    Or, it may have traveled to a different site - like the bone or another organ - like the liver.  This is known as metastasis.

At Moffitt Cancer Center, your providers monitor you for recurrence.  Some cancers have radiology tests such as CT scans, MRIs, mammograms, bone scans, etc. that your oncologist follows.  Some cancers are followed by tumor markers, which are blood tests that may elevate if the cancer returns. Bone marrow biopsies and routine blood work - such as a complete blood count (CBC) with a differential or a complete metabolic profile (CMP) – are two ways to look for recurrences.  As a cancer survivor, one of the best things you can do is keep your appointments and keep up with your specialized Survivorship care plan for how you are to be followed.

This fear of recurrence usually decreases the longer you are out from your original diagnosis date.  Most cancers recur in the first two to three years, although some can come back years later.  Moffitt has social workers who work with the clinical programs, and survivors also have the option of meeting with support groups where they can chat with others who face similar recurrence fears.  Our Integrative Medicine Program has services that some patients find helps to decrease stress, such as yoga and tai chi classes, massage, and acupuncture. If you feel particularly stressed, tell you provider and they may give you a referral to a psychologist in our Psychosocial/Palliative Care Program who may help you work through and manage your feelings and refocus you on positive coping behaviors.

All survivors of cancer understand that the fear of recurrence is real and warranted. Moffitt’s Survivorship Program helps patients not only cope with these fears, but also uses top-of-the-line technology and testing measures to help prevent a recurrence,  no matter what kind of cancer the patient was originally diagnosed with. 

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