Coping with the Uncertainty of Blood Cancer Recurrence

Posted: October 07, 2019 | Word Count: 644

For the growing number of cancer survivors in the United States, many face the shared question: will my cancer come back? In fact, fear of cancer recurrence is one of the top concerns among people with cancer and their loved ones.1

Cancer can impact people in many ways and every person diagnosed with cancer can have a different outcome than the next. Blood cancer is a common type of cancer known for recurrence. Diffuse-large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) is a particularly aggressive form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, as many as 40 percent of people with DLBCL will not respond to initial treatment, or sadly their cancer will return.2,3

“People with an aggressive blood cancer like DLBCL may feel anxiety around their cancer returning or relapsing,” said Meghan Gutierrez, chief executive officer, Lymphoma Research Foundation. “A strong support system is incredibly helpful for patients and survivors and will create an environment where they feel comfortable to share these concerns, and continue to monitor any symptoms with their healthcare provider.”

Coping with the Possibility of Blood Cancer Recurrence:

For people with blood cancers, the possibility of their cancer returning is real and common, which can bring with it a range of emotions and concerns, but there may be ways to minimize this anxiety:

  • Recognize your emotions. Voicing one’s concerns with friends and loved ones is important. Writing down thoughts of anxiety may also be helpful. Be aware that these thoughts may increase around follow-up appointments, the anniversary of diagnosis or someone else’s cancer diagnosis, but may lessen with time.
  • Strive toward balance. Finding different ways to reduce stress can help lower the overall level of anxiety. Trying different activities may also be comforting such as taking a walk, meditating or spending time with a pet or a loved one.
  • Connect with others living with blood cancer. Online and in-person support groups, and local patient and caregiver events, are a great way for people with blood cancers to share advice, discuss concerns about cancer relapse and find added support for managing life beyond treatment. People living with blood cancers or their caregivers can find additional resources and support services at

Staying Informed About Your Health:

For those who have a type of blood cancer where relapse is common, staying informed and engaged about one’s health is important. A few ways to do this are:

  • Talk openly about the risk of relapse with your doctor. While in remission, it is common to feel anxious leading up to follow-up appointments, but these appointments are an important opportunity for a healthcare provider to check for any potential signs of relapse. It may be helpful to discuss concerns about symptoms with those outside of immediate primary care physicians and medical oncologists. People with cancer can also connect with physician assistants, nurse practitioners and social workers, who can provide reassurance and further information.
  • Monitor symptoms and discuss necessary tests. In some instances, the same symptoms of a blood cancer could reappear or new symptoms could emerge. It is important to discuss with a healthcare provider any symptoms one experiences, what symptoms to look out for and what blood tests or scans may be required to confirm if a cancer has returned.

Learn More:

You can help educate yourself about DLBCL and other blood cancers in this short educational video from Genentech.

1 Armes J, Crowe M, Colbourne L, et al. Patients’ supportive care needs beyond the end of cancer treatment: a prospective, longitudinal survey. J Clin Oncol. 2009; 27:6172-9.
2 American Cancer Society. About B-Cell Lymphoma Accessed August 9, 2019.
3 Dornan D, et al. Therapeutic potential of an anti-CD79b antibody-drug conjugate, anti-CD79b-vc-MMAE, for the treatment of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Blood 2009; 114:2721–2729.

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