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 Cancer Survivors Org. 

After a cancer diagnosis, a person's priorities regarding relationships, career, or lifestyle may change. Cancer survivors, people with a history of cancer, often say they appreciate life more. They also say they have gained a greater acceptance of self. At the same time, some survivors also become anxious about their health. Some survivors become uncertain of how to cope with life after treatment, especially when regular visits to doctors stop. Find out more about coping with such concerns. Learn more about the next steps to take in survivorship.

  •  After treatment ends, one of the most common concerns survivors have is that the cancer will come back. The fear of recurrence is very real and entirely normal. Although you can not control whether the cancer returns, you can control how much the fear of recurrence affects your life.

Tips for coping with the fear of recurrence:
Living with uncertainty is never easy. It is important to remind yourself that fear and anxiety are normal parts of survivorship. Worrying about the cancer coming back is usually most intense during the first year after treatment. This worry usually decreses over time.
Here are a few ideas to help you cope with the fear of recurrence:

  • Recognize your emotions. Many people try to hide or ignore “negative” feelings like fear and anxiety. Ignoring them only allows them to strengthen and become more overwhelming. It often helps to talk about your fears with a trusted friend, family member, or mental health professional. Or you can try writing down your thoughts. Talking and thinking about your concerns can help you explore the issues that underlie your fear. This might include the fear of having to repeat cancer treatment, losing control over your life, or facing death.
  • Accept your fears. Telling yourself not to worry or criticizing yourself for being afraid won't make these feelings go away. Accept that you are going to experience some fear, and focus on ways to manage the anxiety. Be aware that your anxiety may temporarily increase at specific times. These may include follow-up care appointments, the anniversary of your diagnosis, or someone else’s cancer diagnosis.
  • Don't worry alone. Many cancer survivors find joining a support group to be helpful. Support groups offer the chance to share feelings and fears with others who understand. They also allow you to exchange practical information and helpful suggestions. The group experience often creates a sense of belonging that helps survivors feel less alone and more understood.

Reduce stress. Finding ways to manage your stress will help lower your overall level of anxiety. Try different ways of reducing stress to find out what works best for you. This could include:

  • Spending time with family and friends
  • Focusing on hobbies and other activities you enjoy
  • Taking a walk, meditating, or enjoying a bath
  • Exercising regularly
  • Reading a funny book or watching a funny movie
  • Be well informed. In general, most cancers have a predictable pattern of recurrence. However, no one can tell you exactly what will happen in the future. A health care professional familiar with your medical history can give you information about the chance the cancer could recur. He or she can also tell you what symptoms to look for. Knowing what to expect may help you stop worrying that every ache or pain means the cancer has returned. If you do experience a symptom that doesn’t go away or gets worse, talk with a health care professional.