Fear of the cancer returning
Feeling anxious or frightened about the cancer coming back (recurrence) is a common challenge and one of the greatest concerns for cancer survivors. Most cancer survivors are likely to experience this fear to some degree and it may come and go for many years.
This fear may affect your physical well-being, as well as your ability to enjoy life and make plans for the future. Some survivors describe it as a dark cloud or a shadow over their life.
Many people find that their worry is worse at certain times, such as:
- special occasions (e.g. birthdays or holidays)
- anniversaries (e.g. the date you were diagnosed, had surgery or finished treatment)
- before follow-up appointments
- when other people are diagnosed with cancer
- when you have symptoms similar to those when you were first diagnosed
- the death of a friend or family member
- passing by the hospital where you had treatment, or visiting someone in the same hospital
- hearing media reports about cancer, new treatments and celebrities with cancer
- seeing related fundraising campaigns or advertisements (e.g. a graphic cigarette or melanoma warning).
Once treatment was finished, it was quite daunting. I was fearful that the cancer would come back somewhere. Eight years later, it hasn’t come back, which is fantastic.
Learn more about:
- Managing the fear of recurrence
- Will the cancer come back?
- Survival statistics
- Fear of getting a different cancer
- Checking for signs of a new cancer
Dr Haryana Dhillon, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Medical Psychology & Evidence-based Decision-making, School of Psychology, University of Sydney, NSW; Polly Baldwin, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Jessica Barbon, Dietitian, Southern Adelaide Health Network, SA; Dr Anna Burger, Liaison Psychiatrist and Senior Staff Specialist, Psycho-oncology Clinic, Canberra Region Cancer Centre, ACT; Elizabeth Dillon, Social Worker, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Prof Paul Glare, Chair in Pain Medicineand Director, Pain Management Research Institute, University of Sydney, NSW; Nico le Kinnane, Nurse Coordinator, Gynaecology Services, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Amanda Piper, Manager, Australian Cancer Survivorship Centre, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Kyle Smith, Exercise Medicine Research Institute, Edith Cowan University, WA; Aaron Tan, Consumer; Dr Kate Webber, Medical Oncologist and Research Director, National Centre for Cancer Survivorship, NSW. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
Life after cancer treatment
Programs and support for people who have finished treatment
Cancer Council Online Community
A community forum – a safe place to share stories, get tips and connect with people who understand
ENRICH – a free healthy lifestyle program
A face-to-face exercise and nutrition program for cancer survivors