Endorsed by the European Oncology Nursing Society

I am afraid my cancer will come back

I am afraid my cancer will come back image

Fear of cancer coming back is very common,1 especially during the first year after your treatment.2,3 Most cancer survivors experience a fear of recurrence at some point in their journey.4

This fear may be greater if:

  • You are female
  • You have another condition in addition to your cancer, such as diabetes or a heart condition5

It is not unusual for you to find that living with this fear is more difficult to adjust to than your original diagnosis.1,6 However, the longer you survive, the less fearful you will feel.5

While there is no absolute guarantee that you will stay cancer-free, you can take steps to acknowledge and manage any fear you are experiencing:

  • Recognise what triggers your fear; this could be a significant life event such as a birthday, or a routine screening appointment 2,3
  • Think of ways to cope; for example, you could meditate before a follow-up appointment so that you feel calmer2,3
  • Talk to family and friends who can listen to any fears you may have3
  • Find out more about your survivorship and your ongoing treatments by asking your doctor or nurse or doing your own research; the more you know about your condition, the less fear of recurrence you are likely to experience3,5
  • If your fears become too overwhelming, discuss them with a doctor or counsellor2

The fear of recurrence can be a debilitating struggle, but it is completely normal and you are not alone. Try to accept that some fear is inevitable and move forward by focusing on ways of reducing your stress, staying informed, and finding support.3



  1. Fardell JE, et al. Fear of cancer recurrence: a theoretical review and novel cognitive processing formulation. J Cancer Surviv. 2016 Jan 19 [Epub ahead of print]. DOI 10.1007/s11764-015-0512-5.
  2. Cancer Council NSW. Fear of the cancer coming back Accessed February 2016.
  3. Cancer.Net. Coping with fear of recurrence. Accessed February 2016.
  4. Simard S, et al. Fear of cancer recurrence in adult cancer survivors: a systematic review of quantitative studies. J Cancer Surviv. 2013;7:300-22.
  5. van de Wal M, et al. Does fear of cancer recurrence differ between cancer types? A study from the population-based PROFILES registry. Psychooncology. 2015 Oct 14 [Epub ahead of print]. DOI 10.1002/pon.4002.
  6. Cancer.Net. Dealing with cancer recurrence. Accessed February 2016.