A relapse or recurrence is cancer that goes away and comes back. It can be very dicult to live with the fact that your cancer may come back. In this edition of Cancer Focus, we are going to know more about recurrence, what causes it, how to cope with it and how we can prevent it. Let's learn more about recurrence.
Cancer that goes away and comes back is called recurrence or relapse of cancer. It happens
because despite the best efforts to remove cancer cells, some cells are le behind. It is these cells
that grow to form cancer again. At times, cells may become dormant or enter into a sleeping
mode, only to reactivate later.
Recurrence is of three types: Local is when recurrence occurs at the same place where it first
originated, regional when it occurs in the adjoining areas, i.e., in the vicinity, and distant when
recurrence occurs in distant locations, i.e., far from the original site.
Cancer coming back after surgery is because:
Some cancer cells were le behind during the operation, or
some cancer cells had already broken away from the primary cancer but were too small to see (micrometastases).
Surgeons do their best to remove all of the cancer during surgery. But it is always possible to leave behind a small group of cancer cells.
For this reason your surgeon may recommend more treatment like chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, or a targeted cancer therapy, if they feel that there is a risk of cancer coming back. Cancer can come back aer chemotherapy or radiotherapy because the treatment didn’t destroy all the cancer cells. This is one of the major reasons why the approach in cancer treatment is multi-modal, or multi-disciplinary, to prevent cancer from coming back.
Recurrence is cancer that goes away and comes back. Progression is cancer that worsens or
spreads to other areas of body. Progression is also when cancer comes back quickly and becomes
resistant to treatment.
Recurrence may come multiple times. It can happen once, twice or thrice, and this might sound scary. But many people live with recurrence with the right treatment, and for them cancer is like any other chronic illness such as diabetes or heart disease.
A recurrence is diagnosed the same way as cancer is diagnosed. Your doctor might suspect you for recurrence if you start to develop certain signs and symptoms, or based on certain tests
It may be possible you might be having some other problem just like anyone else, like a flu, infection, arthritis, heart problem. It is best you speak with your doctor to find the cause of your problem.
A recurrence in cancer brings back some of the emotions, you experienced when first diagnosed with cancer. There might be shock of having cancer come back, when you assumed it was gone. This can cause distress, self-doubt, anxiety, fear and anger. You may doubt your choice of treatment, or the lifestyle choices you made all this while. You may be angry with your doctor for not being able to stop the cancer from coming back. All these feeling and emotions are normal. However, you need not look back. Instead, focus on your current situation and what you need to do now. Here are a few tips to dealing with a recurrence better:
It is normal to experience emotional distress after a diagnosis of cancer recurrence. However, if the distress is long-lasting or starts to interfere with your daily activities, you may seek help. Counseling is a way to cope with difficult feelings. Another good way is to join a support group or online community to share your experiences and feelings with others in the same situation.
Prevention of recurrence works the same way as preventing cancer in the first place.
Cancer treatments mostly have 2 goals-to kill the cancer, and to prevent it from coming
back.However, medical treatments are not the only way to prevent recurrence. There is
growingevidence that your health habits, such as the foods you eat, or don't eat and the
amount ofexercise you get after your treatment is over, can also help cancer from coming
back. Some ofthese strategies work at reducing your chances of recurrence and that too
without the ill effects oftreatments.
There is growing evidence that maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise canprevent cancer and also its recurrence. Quitting smoking and alcohol, and removing wrong foodslike processed meats, excessive sugars, oils rich in saturated fats, red meat, processed meats, aregood ways to prevent recurrence. Eating foods rich in fruits and vegetables, around the entire colorspectrum, whole grains, healthy oils, are additional ways to reduce cancer risk.