Fear of Cancer Recurrence
Fear of cancer recurrence (FCR) is defined as fear, worry or concern relating to the possibility that cancer will come back or progress.
FCR is among the most commonly reported psychosocial issues for cancer survivors. It affects people with all types of cancer, and it may continue long after treatments are completed.
Specific to lymphomas, the 2018 Lymphoma Coalition Global Patient Survey on Lymphomas & CLL found that 43% of patients experienced FCR during treatment and 72% experienced FCR after treatment. FCR was also reported to continue for up to 8+ years after treatment by some individuals.
Fear of cancer recurrence is a unique and significant mental health issue. It can impact an individual’s quality of life and is associated with anxiety, depression and isolation. FCR can also hinder the ability to plan for the future.
FCR present itself in varying levels of severity:
- Mild FCR – Occasional thoughts about cancer with peaks of anxiety that are resolved after a few days. These occasions are triggered by external factors like follow-up medical appointments.
- Moderate to severe FCR – More frequent thoughts about cancer without external triggers (one or more time per week), a perceived inability to control these thoughts, and a strong feeling of related distress.
While evidence-based strategies are not yet widely available, in recent years there have been many studies evaluating FCR interventions for cancer survivors. Interventions that help manage FCR include:
- Being mindful
- Addressing fears
- Managing uncertainty
- Gaining control
- Improving patient-healthcare provider communications
- Handling stress through counselling