After Treatment: The Fear of Cancer Recurrence – Part 1

Once treatment is complete, the real challenge actually begins. So much to be aware of, so many more questions. Blogs in this section serves to confront the many fears … after cancer treatment is completed.

A diagnosis of Cancer is a life changing event.

Once treatment is complete, the Fear of the Cancer Coming back (recurring)… is VERY common among cancer survivors…know that you are not alone.

Many will attest that cancer diagnosis and treatment is (was) the most difficult thing to deal with.  HOWEVER, once the treatment is completed – surgery, months of chemotherapy, and weeks of radiation therapy, or a combination thereof – it is rather uncommon for a physician to use the other “C” word … Cure, because, the other “C” word would mean the cancer will never come back.

You see…no one can make such a guarantee. Oncologists (cancer doctors) truly does not know and cannot risk giving such a guarantee. Statistics can be given, but that too can be dangerous, as it truly depends on the patient’s personality. If the patients is an optimist (glass half full) then they will always think of being on the positive side of the equation, but if a pessimist (class half empty) then may be more self defeating.

Many patients live in ultimate dread of that post-treatment cancer evaluation/check-up. The mammogram for breast cancer, PSA’s for prostate cancer, colonoscopy for colon cancer, CT scans for lung cancer, the endoscope for head and neck cancer, the pelvic exam for gynecologic cancer, and so on, and so forth can be crippling. Patients often share that their thoughts include questions such as:

  • What if the cancer comes back?
  • What if I must go through those dreadful treatments again?
  • What if it becomes painful?
  • What if it comes back in a different area?
  • What if I ultimately die from this cancer?

Such thoughts can be quite burdensome and may lead to heart palpitations, panic and anxiety attacks. These symptoms can occur days (and sometimes weeks/months) leading up to the follow-up appointments. Some patients may resort to living life to the fullest (sky diving, international travels, fulfilling bucket lists, etc.,) while others may abandon living (no plans for the future, no long term savings/retirement, depressed, etc..,). Both responses should be addressed.

While we can definitely do a better job at addressing the individual needs of each survivors… we are lacking the resources and staff. The Oncology community is working very hard to make a change. In the meantime, patients and their family can use an advocacy approach…how can they address their personal fear of cancer recurrence? What can they do to decrease some of the symptoms they are experiencing?

Stay tuned…next time we will review a few strategies to address some of the more common symptoms brought about by the Fear of Cancer Recurrence…

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Remember …

Ipsa Scientia Potestas est    ———  Knowledge itself is power!

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Queen, Your Family Friendly Doc

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