Take Charge

How to Cope With a Cancer Recurrence

March 20, 2017

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As a cancer survivor, you understandably dread the news of a recurrence and the uncertainty that goes along with it. This can happen if a small number of cancerous cells remain in your body after treatment. Initially, they may be too small to be detected in a follow-up examination, but over time, they can become active and grow into detectable tumors. The cancer may return to the area where it first originated or migrate to another part of your body.

The risk of cancer recurrence is different for every patient. It can be influenced by a number of factors, including the type and stage of the original cancer, the treatments used and the amount of time that has passed since treatment was completed. If your cancer recurs, you may feel disappointed in your treatment team or blame yourself for past lifestyle choices. But, it’s important to keep in mind that a recurrence does not necessarily mean that your treatment was ineffective or that you did something wrong.

Every individual who experiences a cancer recurrence handles the situation differently. You should know that you are not alone, and also that there are steps you can take to help you cope, feel more empowered and regain control of your life. These include:

  • Using the lessons you’ve learned — Because you’ve already fought cancer, you’ve acquired some very valuable knowledge and experience. You’ve probably developed some effective coping skills as well, which you can now draw on to boost your strength and confidence.
  • Seeking emotional support — It’s natural to feel angry and upset about a cancer recurrence. Remind your family members and friends that you are still the same person you always were, and let them know that they can help you just by listening and being at ease with you. Additionally, you may find it helpful to share your feelings and concerns in support groups with others who are facing similar circumstances.
  • Taking an active role in your treatment — Speak candidly about your needs and concerns with your treatment team. Seek information and ask questions about your available options. To increase your comfort level, you might want to request additional expert opinions.
  • Setting objectives — Create a plan to live your life as fully as possible. Establish small daily goals, such as taking a walk or meeting with a friend. Having places to go and things to do can help you feel more productive and fulfilled, and allow you to focus on something other than your cancer.

Remember, too, that you likely have new sources of hope. Cancer research is ongoing and new discoveries are being made every day. With this progress, treatments are continually improving and new options are being developed to more effectively treat recurrent cancer and manage its symptoms.

At Moffitt Cancer Center, we care about the comfort and well-being of our patients at every point in their cancer journeys, and we offer a wide variety of informational, wellness and clinical services to assist those who are living with cancer. If you’d like to take advantage of our supportive care services, you can request an appointment by calling 1-888-663-3488 or completing our new patient registration form online. No referrals are required.