Endorsed by the European Oncology Nursing Society

Will my cancer return?

Will my cancer return? image

When you have completed your cancer treatment it is very normal to be afraid that your cancer will come back (“recur”).1

Cancer can come back after treatment for several reasons, for instance:

  • Some cancer cells can be left behind after treatment, despite the best efforts of healthcare professionals to make sure that all of the cancer is removed1
  • Some cancer cells can break away and move to another part of the body before treatment is completed2
  • In some cancers, such as thyroid cancer or chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, genetic mutations may increase the risk of your cancer returning3,4

If the cancer returns, this can occur: 1

  • At the original site (known as “local recurrence”)
  • In lymph nodes near the original site (known as “regional recurrence”)
  • In another part of the body (known as “distant recurrence” or “metastatic cancer”)

How great this risk is will be different for each person and depends on many factors:1

  • Your type of cancer
  • Your treatment
  • The length of time since your treatment ended

Research has provided a general idea of the size of the risk. Bear in mind, however, that this is only a guide, and that the risk may be very different for you.

  • Most cancers that recur do so within approximately 2 years after initial treatment ends2
  • The risk of recurrence is even less when treatment ended more than 5 years ago2

Your doctor may provide you with a realistic estimate of the risk of recurrence, taking into account your individual factors and circumstances.1

Click here to learn more about how to manage any anxiety or fears you may have about a potential recurrence.




  1. American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/002014-pdf.pdf. Accessed April 2016.
  2. Cancer Research UK. Why some cancers come back. Accessed April 2016.
  3. Yarchoan M, LiVolsi VA, Brose MS. BRAF mutation and thyroid cancer recurrence. J Clin Oncol. 2015;33:7-8.
  4. Guièze R, et al. Presence of multiple recurrent mutations confers poor trial outcome of relapsed/refractory CLL. Blood. 2015;126:2110-7.