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Fear Of Your Cancer Progressing Or Coming Back

Fear Of Your Cancer Progressing Or Coming Back

Feeling anxious or worried about ovarian cancer spreading further throughout your body (progressing), or coming back after it has been treated (recurrence) is one of the most common worries people have after finishing cancer treatment. 

Fear of Cancer Progression

For those with a late or advanced stage of ovarian cancer they may be worried about what will happen if the cancer continues to spread (metastasise). Whilst it may not be possible for your cancer to go away completely, there are treatments available that can control its progression. If one treatment stops working, there may be another option available, and new treatments are being constantly developed and tested all the time. There may also be an opportunity for you to participate in a clinical trial.

Fear of Cancer Recurrence

For those with an early-stage ovarian cancer, they may be concerned about the cancer returning (recurring). This can be especially worrying in the first few months after completing treatment. The likelihood of your cancer recurring is dependent upon several factors such as the type, stage and grade of your cancer and the treatments you received. Your doctor will be the best person to address this concern and advise you of what symptoms to watch out for and report.

Why are women fearful?

Uncertainty about the future and having to take ‘new steps’ in life often creates a space for fear. Considering all this, it is not surprising that the first things women worry about once their treatment is over are:

  • What if my cancer comes back?

  • How will I cope if it does?

  • Is there treatment to help cancer that comes back?

  • How will my children, partner and friends cope?

  • If it comes back, will it be worse than last time?

You may feel unable to stop thinking about your cancer coming back, see a future or make plans. However, the answers to many of your questions may not be negative. And there are things you can do for yourself, as well as working with professional support, to help you gradually move away from that gnawing fear that your cancer will come back.

Common worry times

Worrying about your cancer coming back can happen at any time. But some things may trigger the fear more than others, including:

  • going to follow-up appointments, and knowing that a follow-up appointment is approaching

  • starting anything new – job, fitness class, studies

  • anniversary dates such as the date you were diagnosed or finished treatment

  • birthdays, holidays and festivals such as Christmas, and other special occasions such as births or weddings

  • hearing someone you know has been diagnosed with cancer

  • media stories about people with cancer or about deaths from cancer

  • developing symptoms that you cannot explain such as headache, abdominal pain or sore throat

  • having long-term side effects from your treatment such as fatigue

  • any stressful event within your family – marriage break-ups, job changes or financial difficulties.

For some people though, their fear of recurrence is so strong that it may interfere with their day-to-day life and relationships. This may make planning for the future difficult. 

How to manage fear of cancer progression/recurrence

Over time, many people report that their fear of the cancer recurring does lessen, although for many it never completely goes away. However, many  people also say there are things you can do to help manage your fear of recurrence.

Tips for managing your fear of recurrence

  • be aware of any new symptoms and seek medical advice

  • take steps to help manage your anxiety

  • do your best to accept uncertainty

  • focus on wellness and ways to remain positive

  • try and control what you can and let go of the things you cannot control

  • write down your worries and only allow yourself a special designated “worry time”

  • don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for support

Webinar: Living with ovarian cancer, emotional impacts and self-care

This webinar addresses the emotional aspects and challenges associated with living with an ovarian cancer diagnosis and includes some strategies to help manage these challenges.

Where to find support

  • At Ovarian Cancer Australia, we have a team of specialised oncology counsellors and psychologists in the psychosocial support team who can provide individual telehealth support for emotional concerns associated with an ovarian cancer diagnosis, including fear of recurrence and progression. If you would like further information on our psychosocial support services, contact our helpline on 1300 660 334 (Monday-Friday during business hours AET) or email support@ovariancancer.net.au

  • Talk to your GP or cancer specialist about speaking with a counsellor or psychologist.. Your hospital may provide you with access to counselling services or you may be eligible to get a rebate for sessions with a psychologist or counsellor through Medicare or private health insurance.

Fear of Cancer Recurrence

Our ‘Fear of cancer recurrence’ booklet provides comprehensive information and discusses cancer recurrence and suggests some tips on how to help you manage your fears.

Acknowledgement flags

Ovarian Cancer Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land where our office is located, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation and we pay our respects to Elders past and present.