Living With Uncertainty: The Fear of Cancer Recurrence

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What is the risk of recurrence?

The risk of recurrence for cancer survivors is different for each person. It depends on many factors, including the type of cancer, the treatment you had, and how long it’s been since your treatment. If you find yourself haunted by questions about recurrence, ask your doctor to talk realistically about the chances of the cancer coming back. You may find this information reassuring or somewhat unsettling. Whatever information you get, remember that each person is unique, no matter what the statistics. There may be factors that may make your case different from the usual.

You may want to ask your doctor or nurse questions like these if you are worried about recurrence:

  • Is it possible the cancer can come back?
  • When is it most likely to come back?
  • Where would it most likely come back?
  • How likely is it to come back? (numbers and statistics)
  • Is there anything I can do keep it from coming back?
  • How will I know if it’s back? What should I look for?

Last Medical Review: 06/19/2013
Last Revised: 06/19/2013