Endorsed by the European Oncology Nursing Society

How to cope when cancer comes back

How to cope when cancer comes back image

When cancer comes back it can be difficult to deal with. It is likely to bring back many of the emotions you felt when you were first diagnosed.1

Whether it comes back in the same place or in a different part of your body, any cancer that returns is said to be “recurrent”. A recurrent cancer can often be treated in much the same way as your first (primary) cancer was treated.1

A cancer may come back because:

  • Not all of the cancer cells could be removed or destroyed during your first treatment1
  • Some cancer cells had spread to other parts of your body2
  • Your cancer stopped responding to the treatment you were receiving2

You can never be sure that a cancer will not come back, but with close follow-up care and by keeping an eye out for symptoms you can be better prepared to catch it if it does.Talk with your doctor or care team to find out which symptoms to look out for.

In the meantime, there are several things you can do to have a healthy lifestyle. These include:

  • Eating healthily3
  • Taking exercise3
  • Seeing your doctor for follow-up visits3

However, please understand that there is no current evidence that these measures can prevent cancer from recurring, but these steps may potentially lessen the likelihood of recurrence.3



  1. Cancer.Net. Dealing with cancer recurrence. Accessed February 2016.
  2. Cancer Research UK. Why some cancers come back. Accessed February 2016.
  3. American Cancer Society. Living with uncertainty: the fear of cancer recurrence. Accessed February 2016.