For some cancer patients, treatment may end and all signs of disease may be gone only to have a period of time pass and discover that it has returned. This is known as a cancer recurrence. Whether or not your cancer will return isn’t something anyone (even your doctor) will be able to tell you with certainty—there are many factors that play in to whether or not it may return—like the type of cancer you had and how advanced it was. But that doesn’t change the fact that many cancer survivors have concerns for their future after treatment—always wondering what could be ahead. But you don’t have to let every sensation make you question your health. Here a few ways you can live as healthy as possible, build knowledge, and stay on top of any changes in your body.
Make those healthy lifestyle changes
Having one kind of cancer doesn’t make you immune to developing a second or even third kind later in life in another area of your body completely unrelated to your first cancer. Making healthy choices in both diet and lifestyle are among the best ways to reduce your cancer risk according to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Do your research and ask your doctor what healthy lifestyle changes are right for you.
Know what symptoms to watch out for
Once your cancer treatment was finished, your medical team probably told you what what type of follow up plan you would need and how to proceed. That might mean the occasional CT or MRI scan, or maybe a liquid biopsy to monitor for cancer DNA in your blood. In addition, there are a few things you can be on the lookout for that may be signs of recurrence:
- The return of symptoms you had before
- A new unexplained lump or bump
- Unexplained weight loss
- Bruising or bleeding easily
- New or unusual pain
- Blood in your stool or urine
- Shortness of breath
- Frequent headaches
- A cough that doesn’t go away
- Unusual rash or allergic reaction
- Chills or fevers
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, or trouble swallowing
- Other unexplained symptoms
Just keep in mind that many symptoms can occur without having anything to do with cancer. You’ll still be subject to all the normal illnesses everyone else gets like colds, the flu, or joint issues. But just to be safe, if you notice changes in your health see your family doctor for a checkup. There’s no need to go back to your cancer team on a regular basis.
Overcome the fear in healthy ways
Fear of a recurrence can rob you of the ability to enjoy each day, and for some people it creates such fear that they find it difficult to function or carry on daily tasks. That’s why it is so important for you to find healthy ways to manage your concerns. That may mean distracting yourself with hobbies, staying busy with friends and family or seeing a counselor or support group. No one can predict the future, so do all you can to stay positive, enjoy life and keep your body as healthy as possible—one day at a time.