One of the most difficult challenges in coping with cancer is dealing with the fears of recurrence.
In the jargon of cancer, we talk of “remission,” which can be partial (cancer goes partly away) or complete (no evidence of cancer can be found). Examples of partial remission include stage IV cancers (metastatic to different regions of the body) that reduce in size, as detected by tests such as CAT, PET or bone scans; complete remission may be obtained at surgery (for early stages of breast, colon, prostate, lung, etc.) which is often followed by some type of chemotherapy or hormonal therapy to prevent a cancer relapse or recurrence.
So whether a person is living with an active cancer or has been told they are “cancer- free,” the possibility of the cancer returning or reactivating is very real.
It takes work to deal with the fears of recurrence. The first step in doing so is to acknowledge the reality of the situation — not to bury it mentally and ignore it. But it is not helpful to focus on it again and again; it is important to “live for today,” as I have recently blogged about. There are many other helpful coping strategies and helpful individuals experienced in this field...
Finally, I would encourage all cancer patients and their loved ones to attend a support group, led by an experienced professional, such as an oncology social worker or family therapist. Rather than inciting more fear, bonding with other survivors can be a great comfort. Individual counseling should also be sought out, especially for those who have private concerns that they would not like to share with others. Most cancer centers have counselors available free of charge; there are also other organizations that have support groups and counseling, such as CancerCare or Gilda’s Club.
This answer should not be considered medical advice...This answer should not be considered medical advice and should not take the place of a doctor’s visit. Please see the bottom of the page for more information or visit our Terms and Conditions.
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