When to stop worrying about recurrence?

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Question from Allison: Is it common for us who live with cancer to assume anything different from our 'normal' as a sign of recurrence? I don't want to be too cavalier and say, "I'm cured" for sure, but I don't want to be holding my breath waiting for the other shoe to drop either. What would be an appropriate way to face this uncertain future?
Answers - Musa Mayer That is the question that women ask themselves after they've finished their treatment. If you talk to other women who've been treated for breast cancer, you soon find out that we all worry about recurrence, and that we're all up sometimes in the middle of the night wondering if this ache or that pain might be a recurrence of our cancer. If you can manage to be cavalier, I say, "More power to you!"

I would encourage you not to deny what has happened, but to trust that if something serious is going on, that it will persist and get worse; it will get your attention. For the most part, the transient aches and pains and lumps and pimples and various symptoms that we all worry about have nothing to do with cancer, but with all the other kinds of problems that we're subject to. As Dr. Weiss said, we're not immune to other physical problems, particularly as we age.

The first year to three years or four years after diagnosis and after you've completed your treatment are the hardest. It really helps to share your fears and feelings with other women and realize that you are normal for feeling this way. And, after a while, you can even laugh about some of the stories. I included the experiences of about 40 women telling their stories of cancer freak-outs in my book, and many women find it very comforting to know that they are not the only ones who worry this way.

Marisa Weiss, M.D. There are many studies that have shown that what most helps women get through their treatment and beyond it is the connection to other women, as well as information.

The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Metastatic Breast Cancer featured Musa Mayer, Eric P. Winer, M.D., and Marisa Weiss, M.D. answering your questions about treatment and quality of life issues related to advanced (metastatic) breast cancer.

Editor's Note: This conference took place in September 2003.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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