After completing cancer treatment and your doctor declares you to be in remission (meaning your tests for cancer show as negative), you have cause to celebrate! However, after going through the physical and mental ordeal of a cancer diagnosis and treatment, it can be hard not to wonder if the cancer is really gone. This is a common worry among cancer survivors, and it is important to remember that you are not alone.
If the same type of cancer comes back after remission, it is called recurrence. After your cancer treatment or surgery is complete, your doctor will recommend a schedule for follow up exams and imaging tests to screen for cancer recurrences. It is important to follow through with these visits, as it is crucial to detect recurrences early. It is also very important to communicate openly with your doctor and discuss any new or returning symptoms.
Signs to be alert for:
- Return of cancer symptoms you had previously
- Unanticipated weight loss
- Bleeding easily
- Unexplained bruising or sores that do not heal
- New or odd pain that doesn’t go away
- Bloody stools or urine
- New lumps or swelling without reason
- Vomiting, diarrhea or loss of appetite
- Severe or constant headaches
Why Cancer Might Come Back
Cancer cells can remain dormant for any period of time and a recurrence may be due to the original treatment not being completely successful. This can happen if your surgery fails to remove all the cancer or other treatment (chemotherapy, radiation therapy, etc.) is unable to eradicate all the cancer cells. Sometimes this can happen if the cancer has moved to another location in your body prior to surgery or treatment, or if the cancer cells become resistant to treatment.
Likelihood of Recurrence
Unfortunately, there is no way to tell how likely it is that your cancer will return, and it can be upsetting when your doctor is unable to tell you whether your cancer is gone for good. However, each day that passes after treatment lowers your risk of recurrence. Most cancers that will return, do so within the first two years of remission. If you are having a hard time coping, it may be helpful to talk to a friend or family member, therapist, or join a support group to discuss your fears and feelings.
Follow Up Imaging Exams
Whether or not you have had cancer, it is important to get regular screenings, including mammograms to check for breast cancer. Here at The Breast Center of Maple Grove we have expert staff on hand to make your mammograms as comfortable as possible. Call us today at 763-398-6370 to schedule an appointment or ask about our Girls’ Night Out events, where you can come with the support of friends to get screened together.