Sign In

Dealing with My Fear of Cancer Coming Back

​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.

date of test results

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

a couple walking together

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

a woman meditatingCalm yourself by using positive affirmations, music, visualizations or other past images that helped you.

Cope actively

Do something about it.

Seek support

Consider talking to someone about your emotions.

Ways to Cope with Fear

The purpose of this exercise is to explore different ways to help you cope. Take 5-minutes to write down your answers to the following questions:

(e.g. What did I do in the past to help me get through difficulties in life? Do I need to consider new ways to help myself through difficulties?)

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.



  1. Getting Back on Track, Life After Breast Cancer Treatment, Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation - Ontario / Princess Margaret Hospital, 2010

Suggested Readings:

  • Davis., Martha., Robbins Eshelman, Elizabeth. and McKay, Matthew. The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook, 4th Edition, Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.
  • 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.
  • Rosenbaum, Elana. Being Well (Even When You’re Sick): Mindfulness Practices for People with Cancer and Other Serious Illnesses, Shambhala Publications, Inc., Boston: MA, 2012.
  • Salgado, Brenda. Real World Mindfulness for Beginners (ed.). Sonoma Press, Berkeley CA, 2016.
  • Phan, Stephanie. Relaxing Exercises to Relieve Stress. University Health Network, 2014