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Fear of Recurrence - by Cheryl Lecroy

In this article, wellness coach Cheryl Lecroy talks about Fear of Recurrence: what it is, why it happens, and how to manage it. Read it on The After Cancer.

Cheryl Lecroy is a Wellness Coach at The After Cancer.

What is fear of recurrence and why do I have this? 


Fear of recurrence is a natural part of the normal process after a cancer diagnosis. Typically, more prevalent in survivors who are diagnosed with non-metastatic disease or with those who are deemed NED (No Evidence of Disease) through treatment. This fear often shows up after treatment is completed and a desire for a life that resembles normalcy returns.


The term “New Normal” is often used when describing this stage or sometimes “Back to Normal” is used.


How does it show up for cancer survivors? What are the triggers? Does it ever go away? 


The truth is that anxiety about the unknown is normal. Fear of recurrence can show up sporadically and unexpectedly. Research shows that up to 89 % of survivors experience some level of a Fear of Recurrence. It can disrupt psychological well-being and manifest anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and feelings of uncertainty and vulnerability.


Some of the symptoms may include poor sleep, restlessness, scattered thoughts, diminished self-esteem or being short-tempered, among other ways. It is important to recognize this as a condition that is REAL but also have reassurance that there are effective ways to cope with the fear of recurrence.


Recognizing some of the triggers that bring on the fear of recurrence is also very helpful so that steps can be taken to understand and alleviate the fear.


Common triggers include:


  • Scanxiety – the anxiety that comes with upcoming scans.

  • Planning for the future – Ready to resume some form of normalcy such as planning a vacation but unsure that you will be physically able.

  • Unexplained pain – Every ache and pain could be the return of cancer, even if it may be irrational.


This fear can be much stronger at the end of treatment and will often lessen or even diminish over time. Research shows that many breast cancer survivors experience the fear of recurrence for 9 years. So be patient with yourself.

How can I manage fear of recurrence?


The GREAT news is that are effective ways to manage the fear of recurrence.


  1. Acknowledge your feelings and most importantly, be gentle with yourself.

  2. Join a positive support group. Surrounding yourself with survivors who understand what you are experiencing is powerful.

  3. Use positive self-affirmations and kind, loving words when referring to yourself.

  4. Spend more time doing the things you LOVE to do. Positive distraction with at least one pleasurable activity per day can have a huge impact on mindset and mood.

  5. Remind yourself daily that going backwards is not an option. Instead of trying to get “back to normal” try instead of embracing the NOW of Normal, at this very moment with the question. What can I be NOW?

  6. Add a self-care routine to encourage positive lifestyle choices that can reduce your risk or recurrence. Proper nutrition, exercise, and stress reduction techniques are just a few of the things you CAN implement to regain some control of your situation.

  7. Recognize that you are not a statistic, and that recurrence rates on a cancer diagnosis do not consider all the positive reinforcement and changes you are making in YOUR situation. A wonderful unique individual!!!

  8. Book an appointment with one of our care team professionals at The After Cancer. We are here for you with evidence-based practices to support you to a healthier and more resilient survivorship.



Want some more personalized support?

Book a visit with Cheryl or another member of our Care Team


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