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Transcript: "Ways to Cope with the Fear of Cancer Returning"

Worry about cancer coming back is a very common problem after treatment ends. One wonders, "Gee, now that the therapy has stopped, is the cancer going to start re-growing again?" So this is, again, almost universal. People think about this after cancer treatment ends.

One of the ways to manage it is have good information about what is the likelihood that cancer will come back. What are some of the kinds of things that you need to be looking for or worrying about? Having that knowledge can give one a sense of control over what's happening, so that you may feel much more relieved that perhaps you are at lower risk than you thought you were of having cancer.

Other ways to manage what we call fear of recurrence are to keep busy, having other plans in your life, and realizing that that there are things in your life that you can control, even if you are not positive that you can alter outcomes for your cancer in the future.

Many survivors tell us that over time, in particular as that first year after therapy ends, that worry about the cancer coming back diminishes.

At the same time, we also know that there are some events that trigger that worry. Follow-up visits with a healthcare provider may re-elicit all those feelings about worry that the cancer's come back. What will I do if the tests show up there's something there? So again, anticipating that and realizing that's a very normal response, and knowing that you are doing the right thing for yourself are important in easing that anxiety over time.

If it persists, though--and for some individuals, it doesn't go away over time or may get worse and may make them feel very anxious about doctors' visits--it's helpful again to talk to your healthcare team because talking perhaps to a counselor about what you are worrying about and what you might do to alleviate that anxiety could be very helpful.

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