Thursday 17 May 2018
Susan Long â€“ Maggie's
Sometimes cancer can come back (recurrence) weeks, months or years after the original diagnosis. Knowing your cancer has come back can trigger a range of emotions.
The information on this page will help you to find out more about cancer recurrence, and ways to cope with emotions and practical issues this raises.
Most people with cancer are naturally worried about it coming back.
For many, cancer will be treated successfully and it may never recur. However, sometimes cancer returns (recurrence) - and for some types of cancers this can be weeks, months or years after the original diagnosis.
Your original treatment aimed to get rid of all or most of your cancer. Sometimes, a small amount of minute cancer cells remain, and regrow. It can depend on what type of cancer you had, whether it was a faster growing type, or was more widespread when it was first found.
Cancer may come back in the same area of the body, in nearby glands (lymph nodes) or in other parts of your body (secondary cancer).
If cancer comes back it does not necessarily mean that it cannot be treated successfully. Your doctor may recommend another course of treatment. Even if the cancer itself cannot be treated there may be treatment available to help control the symptoms caused by the cancer.
For some people, cancer doesn't go away, and it becomes a chronic (ongoing) illness - like diabetes or heart disease. The cancer is controlled and managed, and may become a cycle of recurrence and remission.
For other people, the cancer may metastasize (spread) to other areas of the body, but be well controlled for a number of years. When cancer spreads it is known as secondary cancer.
Sometimes, the cancer becomes advanced and life limiting meaning that treatment focuses on quality of life rather than quantity.
Emotionally, this can feel a distressing time. You may feel scared, angry, and anxious, wondering what the future will hold, and how you will manage. It often brings back feelings you experienced when originally diagnosed.
You may feel frustrated that the treatments you went through didnâ€™t stop the cancer returning. Sometimes people blame themselves, wondering if itâ€™s something they did or didnâ€™t do. These are all normal responses although they can feel overwhelming at first.
When cancer comes back, you may feel helpless and overwhelmed at first, even if you had always thought it might be a possibility. Thereâ€™s no wrong or right way to react, but there are things you can do to feel more in control of the situation.
If youâ€™re waiting for treatment to start and your symptoms get worse - let your healthcare team know. It can sometimes take time to set up treatment plans, whilst investigations are completed, but symptoms need to be followed up, so that you can be comfortable.
Similarly, if youâ€™re having trouble sleeping, feeling anxious and panicky or low in mood, talk with your GP. Whilst the emotions youâ€™re feeling are normal, if theyâ€™re going on for a number of days, or feel completely overwhelming then it can help to talk things through with someone who understands.
Have a look at our blogs and links on this page to find out more about living with cancer when it comes back.
Talk with others about what you are experiencing. It can help to hear that what youâ€™re feeling is not unusual, and help you feel less alone. Call into your local Maggieâ€™s centre to talk things over with our cancer support specialists and to connect with others in a similar position to yourself.
Last review: Dec 2021 | Next review: Nov 2022
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