Kaye Sturz, N.P.
Breast Cancer Care, Oncology (Cancer)
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Fear of cancer recurring, or the reappearance of prior cancer, is one of the biggest concerns following cancer treatment. If you have had cancer, it's natural to worry about it coming back. Some fear of recurrence is normal, but excessive fear can lead to decreased quality of life.
People with significant cancer-recurrence fear may experience problems sleeping and eating, have difficulty concentrating and making decisions, and withdraw from participating in activities that once provided joy and fulfillment. Increased physical problems, distress and risk of post-traumatic stress disorder also may happen.
Fortunately, there are several ways you can manage the fear of cancer recurrence. Try these tips:
- Talk to your health care team about your fears.
They can help put your worries into perspective.
- Be proactive and well-informed.
Most cancers have a predictable pattern of recurrence. Talk with your health care team, who can tell you about the chances of cancer recurrence and the symptoms to look for. Ask about steps you can take to reduce your risk of recurrence. Sometimes focusing on what actions you can take can help you manage and move past your fears.
- Name your fears.
Is it more than just the fear of cancer coming back? Are you afraid of pain? Are you afraid of the outcome and what it means for your family? Identifying the fear will help you determine the steps to cope with and manage it.
- Get emotional support.
Share your fears with a family member, friend, counselor or support group. Talking to someone helps lessen the loneliness that accompanies fear.
- Find a coping method.
Distraction is an excellent coping method because it will take your mind off of your fear. Distraction can take many forms from starting an exercise program to finding a creative outlet, such as painting, listening to music or journaling. Another option is trying qi gong, which is a breathing technique combined with meditation. Studies suggest qi gong may help with cancer fatigue and benefit the immune system.
- Become an advocate for others with cancer.
Other people also struggle with fear of cancer recurrence. Share these tips and how you used them to help others manage fear.
Don't live in fear or let the worry and stress of cancer recurrence overwhelm you. Talk to your health care team, who can help you identify ways to manage the fear and other accompanying emotions.
- Discover the benefits of an exercise routine after cancer.
- Find a cancer specialist near you.
- Gather tips for emotionally recovering after cancer.
- Learn about the importance of a survivorship plan.