Recurrence: Recognizing the Signs

For Survivors


Life after a cancer diagnosis changes you. Even if you are in remission, there are times when you get this unshakable feeling that “it” is back – cancer. This fear of recurrence is incredibly common for survivors. Although it may be tempting, ruminating on it is not likely to help and will steal your peace in the present moment. It may, however, be beneficial to stay vigilant and learn about the common signs, so if something is “off” you can get it checked out right away. It’s the difference between paranoia and preparedness. 

The Signs of Cancer Recurrence

Remember that cancer is a complex and varied group of diseases characterized by the abnormal growth of cells. The word “cancer” is really more of an umbrella term, but underneath it, are diseases that all have different signs, treatments, and risk factors. While cancer symptoms can manifest differently in each individual, there are common signs associated with some of the most prevalent cancer types. It’s crucial to note that these symptoms may also be caused by other conditions, so any concerns should be promptly addressed with a healthcare professional.

Breast Cancer: A Woman’s Concerns

  • New lump in the breast or underarm
  • Changes in breast size, shape, or appearance
  • Unexplained pain in the breast or nipple
  • Skin changes like redness, dimpling, or puckering

Lung Cancer: Breathing Uneasily

  • Persistent cough that lingers
  • Chest pain exacerbated by deep breathing, coughing, or laughing
  • Shortness of breath or wheezing
  • Coughing up blood or rust-colored sputum

Colorectal Cancer: Pay Attention to Your Gut

  • Changes in bowel habits, like persistent diarrhea or constipation
  • Blood in the stool or rectal bleeding
  • Abdominal discomfort, cramps, or pain
  • Unexplained weight loss

Prostate Cancer: Men’s Health Matters

  • Difficulty urinating or a weak urinary stream
  • Frequent urination, especially at night
  • Blood in the urine or semen
  • Erectile dysfunction

Ovarian Cancer: Silent Threat in Women

  • Abdominal bloating or swelling
  • Pelvic pain or discomfort
  • Feeling full quickly when eating
  • Changes in bowel or bladder habits

Skin Cancer (Melanoma): Guarding Against the Sun

  • Changes in the size, shape, or color of moles
  • Irregular borders or uneven color in a mole
  • Itching or tenderness in a mole
  • Spreading pigmentation beyond the border of a mole

Leukemia: The Bloodstream Battle

  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Pale or sallow skin
  • Frequent infections
  • Easy bruising or bleeding

Pancreatic Cancer: Detecting the Silent Killer

  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Pain in the upper abdomen, possibly radiating to the back
  • Digestive problems, such as poor appetite and nausea

Early detection is key to successful cancer treatment. If you experience persistent or unusual symptoms, consult with a healthcare professional for a thorough evaluation. Additionally, regular screenings, especially for individuals at higher risk, play a crucial role in catching cancer in its early stages. 

Navigating the Emotional Landscape After Cancer

For those who have battled cancer and triumphed, life after treatment presents its own set of challenges. Survivors must find a balance between vigilance and not letting the fear of recurrence impact their mental well-being and overshadow their lives. Thankfully, you can navigate the post-treatment phase while being aware of when to seek medical advice for potential recurrences. 

Tips for Managing Fear of Recurrence

Regular Check-ups

Schedule and attend follow-up appointments as recommended by your healthcare team. These check-ups provide reassurance and enable early detection if there are any signs of concern. 

Open Communication

Share your concerns with your healthcare team, friends, or family. Expressing your fears can be cathartic and may lead to valuable insights and support. 

Embrace a Healthy Lifestyle

Adopting a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise, a balanced diet, and stress management can contribute to overall well-being and empower survivors in their journey post-treatment

Recognizing Normal Aches and Pains vs. Signs of Recurrence

It’s natural for survivors to be more attuned to their bodies after cancer. However, it’s crucial to distinguish between normal aches and pains and potential signs of recurrence. Seek medical advice if you experience:

  • New or unexplained symptoms that persist
  • Changes in the pattern or intensity of existing symptoms
  • Any symptom that causes persistent concern or anxiety

When to Seek Medical Advice for Possible Recurrence

While survivors should remain vigilant, it’s also essential to strike a balance and not overreact to every physical sensation. Seek medical advice if you experience:

  • New or worsening symptoms that persist for more than a few weeks
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Persistent pain that is not associated with a known injury or strain
  • Changes in bowel or urinary habits


The very idea of recurrence can be paralyzing, but remember that you are not powerless. Living a Cancer Prevention Lifestyle and remaining informed about the signs will help you reduce your risk, and, if there is recurrence, you will be more likely to catch it early. As I always say, control your controllables: stay informed, maintain open communication with your healthcare team, and adopt a holistic approach to well-being. While the fear of recurrence is a valid concern, it’s equally important not to let it overshadow the joys and opportunities that life after cancer can bring. Remember, you are not alone, and a supportive network of healthcare professionals, friends, and family can make a significant difference in navigating this post-treatment phase.

I love working with survivors like you to banish food fears and learn how to truly NOURISH your body before, during, and after cancer and cancer treatments. Knowing when to ask for help is a sign of strength. What are you waiting for? It’s time to crush your goals, thrive during treatments, and become the most radiant version of you. Are you ready? Click here to apply for my 1:1 coaching.

This blog is not intended as medical nutrition therapy, medical advice, or diagnosis and should in no way replace consultation or recommendation from your medical professional.

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