When Cancer Comes Back: Cancer Recurrence

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Get support

Emotional support can be a powerful tool for both patients and families. Talking with others who are in situations like yours can help ease loneliness. You can also get useful ideas that might help you from others.

“I tried going to a support group after I was diagnosed with recurrence. Everyone in there was newly diagnosed. I felt really out of place and like I was bumming everyone out. Plus I didn’t get any support....”

Counseling and support groups

It’s very important that you gather information about any support group you are thinking about joining to make sure that there are patients in all phases of treatment, including some with recurrence and disease progression. Ask the group leader or facilitator to tell you what types of patients are in the group and if anyone in the group is dealing with recurrence.

You can find support programs in many different formats, such as one-on-one counseling, group counseling, and support groups. Some groups are formal and focus on learning about cancer or dealing with feelings. Others are informal and social. Some groups are made up only of people with cancer or only caregivers while others include spouses, family members, or friends. Other groups focus on certain types of cancer or stages of disease. The length of time groups meet can range from a set number of weeks to an ongoing program. Some programs have closed membership and others are open to new, drop-in members.

Online support groups might be another option for support. The Cancer Survivors Network, an online support community supported by your American Cancer Society, is just one example. (You can visit this community online at http://csn.cancer.org/.) There are many other reputable communities on the Internet that you can join, too. You may also enjoy a personal connection with a counselor who can give you one-on-one attention and encouragement. Your doctor may be able to refer you to a counselor who works with cancer patients.

Religion and spirituality

Religion can be a great source of strength for some people. Some find new faith during a cancer experience. Others find that cancer makes their faith stronger or their faith provides newfound resilience. For some people, religion is an expression of their spirituality. If you are a religious person, a minister, rabbi, other leader of your faith, or a trained pastoral counselor can help you identify your spiritual needs and find spiritual support. Some members of the clergy are specially trained to help minister to people with cancer and their families.

Spirituality is important to many people, even those who don’t practice a formal religion. Many people are comforted by recognizing that they are part of something greater than themselves, which helps them find meaning in life. Spiritual practices can help foster connection to others, to the present moment, and to the sacred or significant. Meditation, practicing gratitude, and spending time in nature are just a few of the many ways that people seek and express spirituality.

Finding support

Support in any form allows you to talk about your feelings and develop coping skills. Studies have found that people who take part in a support group have an improved quality of life, including better sleep and appetite. Contact your American Cancer Society to find out about sources of support that are available in your area.

“I can’t afford to have cancer again. Even though I have insurance, the coverage is not very good. My deductible is really high and my medicines cost a lot. I’m already working fewer hours because my last treatment left me unable to think as quickly as I could before. I feel really trapped. I can’t afford not to have treatment, but I can’t afford to have it either...”

Financial issues are often very real concerns for cancer survivors facing recurrence. For many, as this survivor describes, the problems began with the first cancer illness.

Hopefully, you have been able to keep your health insurance coverage. Sometimes there are insurance options cancer survivors have that they may not be aware of. Talk to your doctor, your facility’s financial counselors, or a social worker. You can also call 1-800-227-2345 for help finding possible sources of financial assistance.


Last Medical Review: 05/13/2013
Last Revised: 06/19/2013