- When Cancer Comes Back: Cancer Recurrence
- What is cancer recurrence?
- What are the types of recurrence?
- What is the risk of recurrence?
- Could I have done something to prevent the recurrence?
- Common questions about cancer recurrence
- When cancer recurs
- Treating recurrence
- What happens if treatment is no longer working?
- How do people cope emotionally when cancer recurs?
- “Is having a positive attitude important in fighting the cancer? My friends say it is, but I feel sad and discouraged.”
- What about the “why” questions?
- Get support
- Treating cancer as a chronic illness
- To learn more
Treating cancer as a chronic illness
“My cancer has come back 3 times. I just keep fighting, even though I know there’s a good chance that treatment won’t make the cancer go away forever…”
Cancer may not be a one-time event. Cancer can come back a second and third time and can even become a chronic (ongoing) illness that never goes away completely. In some cases, especially with certain cancer types, this is true. Although recurrent disease may not be cured, it can often be controlled for months or even years. In fact, there’s always a chance that the cancer will go back into remission. The natural tendency of some cancers (for example, ovarian), is one of recurrence and remission. Often, this repeating cycle can translate into survival over many years during which the cancer can be managed as a chronic illness. Treatment can be used to shrink the cancer, help relieve symptoms, and help you live longer.
Repeated recurrences, often with shorter time periods in between disease-free intervals, can become discouraging and exhausting. The question of whether to continue treating cancer that keeps coming back is a valid one. Your choices about ongoing treatment are personal and based on your needs, wishes, and abilities. There is no right or wrong decision on how to handle this phase of the illness.
Still, it is important to know that even those who are not cured of cancer may go on living for months or years, even though there may be changes in their lives. And though it can be hard to do, many families adjust to this kind of treatment schedule. For these people, cancer can be much like diabetes or heart disease – a chronic illness that is mostly controlled with treatment.
Having a recurrence does not put you beyond hope or help; you may be living with a disease that can be treated or controlled.
Last Medical Review: 04/29/2011
Last Revised: 04/29/2011