General FAQs About Life Post-Cancer

What is cancer recurrence?

Cancer recurrence refers to the return of cancer after completion of treatment. The same cancer may recur in the same place where it first started, or somewhere else in the body.

 

For example, breast cancer may return in the operated site or breast, or it may come back in the bones. In either case, it is considered as a breast cancer recurrence.


What are the types of cancer recurrence?

Recurrence can be categorised into three different types:

 

  • Local recurrence - The cancer has returned in the same location it first started
  • Regional recurrence - The cancer has returned in the lymph nodes near the location it started
  • Distant recurrence - The cancer has returned in another part of the body, such as the bones, liver or lungs etc
 
If you encounter symptoms suspicious of a cancer recurrence, it is best to speak with your doctor as soon as possible for further evaluation.

What is the risk of recurrence?

The risk of recurrence varies between cancer survivors. This is dependent on many factors, such as the type of cancer, the treatment involved, and the duration of treatment.

 

You can discuss these questions with your doctor for a better understanding of recurrence:

 

  • Where would it most likely return?
  • How likely would it return?
  • Is there anything that can be done to prevent it from returning?
  • How to locate symptoms of recurrence



How can you prevent recurrence?

While there is no sure way to prevent recurrence from happening, you can still play your part to minimise the chances of a recurrence. This can be done via various methods below.

 

Diet

 

After completing cancer treatment, it is recommended to adopt a healthy and nutritious diet to aid in the rehabilitation process. While it has not been scientifically proven that nutrition can influence cancer recurrence, it is still wise to eat well in order to be as healthy as possible.

 

The recommended dietary intake for an adult comprises of 2 and a half cups of vegetables and fruits per day. Red meat such as beef, pork and lamb as well as processed meats such as sausages and luncheon meats should also be consumed in moderation. Opt for whole grains over refined grains and sugars.

 

Several types of cancer have been linked to alcohol consumption, so try to drink in moderation to reduce your cancer risk.

 

Vitamins & Supplements

 

Currently, there has been no conclusive evidence to suggest that consuming certain vitamins, herbs or dietary supplements will help to prevent recurrence.

 

Physical Activity

 

Although there has been insufficient research to link physical activity to a risk of cancer recurrence, studies have proven that regular physical activity can reduce anxiety and depression, improve the self-esteem and reduce symptoms of fatigue, nausea, pain and diarrhoea. 

 

Try to engage in physical activities such as brisk walking, biking and swimming at least 150 minutes per week so as to see results of the benefits.

 

What are the possible symptoms of recurrence?

These are some common symptoms which may be related to a cancer recurrence. You may like to consult your doctor for further check-ups if you encounter one or more of the following symptoms:

 

  • A lump or new growth where your cancer first started
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • New or unusual pain unrelated to an injury and does not go away
  • Bleeding or unexplained bleeding
  • Headaches
  • Shortness of breath
  • Bloody stools or blood in your urine
  • Lumps, bumps, or swelling
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, appetite loss or difficulty swallowing
  • A cough that doesn't go away
 
However, do not be too quick to assume your cancer has returned if you encounter any of these symptoms. They could very well just be common illnesses or medical problems so as with any illness, speak to your doctor about your situation.