A cancer diagnosis is never welcome news, especially when it comes unexpectedly. Cancer patients may undergo treatment for weeks or months, all the while hoping treatment will ultimately prove effective. But cancer can return even when it is successfully treated, and the prospect of that return understandably induces concern.
The risk of recurrence is different for each person and typically depends on a host of factors. The type of cancer, how much time has passed since treatment, the type of treatment received, and how well a person has been taking care of herself since treatment ended can all influence a person’s risk of recurrence. Eating right, exercising and seeing the oncologist for follow-up visits are key to good health. But the American Cancer Society notes nothing can be done to guarantee your cancer won’t recur.
Cancer recurrence is defined as the return of cancer after treatment. The same type of cancer may return in the same area of the body, such as breast cancer returning in the same breast.
In some instances, the cancer may return elsewhere in the body. But it is still referred to as a breast cancer recurrence, even if the next incidence is elsewhere. The length of time between the first bout of cancer and the next can vary. When cancer gets worse, this is called a progression. Sometimes it can be difficult to discern whether a recurrence is truly a recurrence or a progression. When only a short amount of time has lapsed since the initial diagnosis, then chances are the cancer is a progression.
After cancer goes into remission, a doctor usually sets up a schedule of follow-up appointments to check for cancer recurrence. A local recurrence, or one in the same spot as before, may be easy to treat. Many advancements have been made regarding the treatment of cancer. However, for many cancers, a recurrence at a distant site can mean the chance for successful treatment is not very likely.
Learning of a recurrence can be devastating, especially after working so hard and suffering through so much to push cancer into remission. Focusing on the future and not growing discouraged about beginning the battle anew are keys to fighting cancer again. But this time you will know what to expect and can plan accordingly.
Receiving news of a cancer recurrence can elicit anger, fear and fatigue. But a recurrence of cancer can be treated successfully, and maintaining a positive outlook can make it easier to fight cancer once again.