6 tips to fight the fear of cancer returning

August 03, 2016 | by Matthew Siegel, MD

If you have just completed cancer treatment, you are probably going through a mix of emotions ranging from excitement to uncertainty. During treatment, you had to get used to a new normal filled with routine treatments and visits to the doctor. Now that treatment is over, you may find yourself with some new challenges.

Many survivors struggle with fear and anxiety that cancer may return, making it difficult to move on after treatment ends. Living with uncertainty is not easy, but it is very common especially within the first year of survivorship.

There are some things you can do to cope with these fears:

  1. Face your fear head on. Acknowledge your fear and find ways to deal with your feelings. Keep in mind everyone is different and we all react in our own individual ways.
  2. Have a plan. Talk with your doctor about recurrence and have a plan for follow-up care. Knowing your risk and planning for the future can help you feel more in control of the situation.
  3. Talk about your fears with others. Join a support group or an online message board and chat with others facing the same issues. Support groups and peer-to-peer networking sites help cancer survivors connect and share similar feelings and experiences.
  4. Maintain a healthy diet. The American Cancer Society recommends cancer survivors follow the same nutrition guidelines as recommended for cancer prevention. Although no single food by itself can protect you against cancer, a healthy overall diet can support immune function and enhance your well-being. 
  5. Keep busy and manage every day stress. Distract yourself with activities you enjoy. Activities like yoga and creative arts therapy can help reduce stress and tension. Also try going for walks to clear your mind, spending time with family and friends, or picking up a good book.
  6. Pay attention to your body. If you notice some of the same symptoms before you were diagnosed, visit your doctor. Remember that many illnesses like headaches, colds or achy joints are just that. Your doctor can help look for any patterns associated with your health.

As time passes, you may find your fears of recurrence begin to diminish. In the meantime, as you navigate this new journey of cancer survivorship, try to control what you can, celebrate milestones as they arise, and focus on the future.

If you find yourself having difficulty transitioning to a new normal, help is available. Make sure to seek additional guidance or counseling if you experience serious signs of anxiety and depression.

How do you keep busy once cancer treatment has ended? Tell us in the below comments.

Learn more about cancer support services at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

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