Coping with fear of cancer coming back is an important part of moving forward with your life after treatment. There are a range of strategies that you may find helpful to support your coping, in particular to help you deal with the anxiety and fear.
Here are some tips:
Be aware of your thought pattern
One way is to be aware of your thoughts and recognize those thoughts that trigger your fear of recurrence. A trigger is a thought or an event that brings about a negative emotional or physical reaction. Notice when you are most likely to worry, in the morning or in the evening before going to bed. Ask yourself what triggered your thoughts.
Common triggers of fear of recurrence include:
- Unexplained physical symptoms (e.g. pain).
- Upcoming scheduled cancer screenings or medical tests.
- Waiting for medical tests results.
- Anniversary of cancer diagnosis or treatment.
- Routine hospital follow-up visits.
- Any mention of cancer.
- Hearing about another person’s cancer or about a person who died from cancer.
Try to alter your thought(s) by switching them from a particular situation
You can replace the distressing thought with a more positive one, e.g. when you worry about the cancer coming back, remind yourself of the treatments you went through to prevent the cancer from coming back. If sometimes the worrying thoughts persist, disrupt them by changing your physical position, e.g. standing up, going for a walk, saying your special words, prayers, or a “mantra” to yourself, or by firmly telling yourself to "stop" those thoughts.
Talk to yourself
Calm yourself by using positive affirmations, music, visualizations or other past images that helped you.
Do something about it.
Consider talking to someone about your emotions.
You may want to print a copy so you can review it later to see if your thoughts of coping have changed. To print a copy, click the PRINT button. Your answer will not be saved once you leave this page.
To learn more ways to help you with your recovery, please visit the Community Resources section for information on resources and programs at the hospital or in the community.
- Getting Back on Track, Life After Breast Cancer Treatment, Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation - Ontario / Princess Margaret Hospital, 2010
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- Carlson, Linda, and Speca, Michael. Mindfulness-Based Cancer Recovery: A Step-by-Step MBSR Approach to Help You Cope with Treatment and Reclaim Your Life, New Harbinger Publications, Oakland: CA, 2011.
- Pasricha, Neil, The Book of Awesome, G.P. Putnam’s & Sons, New York: NY, 2010.
- Posen, David, MD. The Little Book of Stress Relief. Firefly Books Ltd., Richmond Hill, Ontario, 2017.
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- Phan, Stephanie.
Relaxing Exercises to Relieve Stress. University Health Network, 2014