Survivorship

Survivorship

Life changes after a cancer diagnosis, and this can take time to get used to. 

It is important to know that there are people who can support you, and things you can do to help yourself physically and emotionally.

What is survivorship?

Survivorship is a fairly new area of cancer care and research. In the past, health professionals focused on diagnosis and treatment rather than what happened to people after that. Now many people are being cured of cancer, or living longer with cancer. These people need ongoing care and support and this is what survivorship is about.

Not everyone describes survivorship in the same way. Some people think it starts after cancer treatment. Others say that anyone with cancer is a survivor from the day they are diagnosed.

What is agreed is that people with cancer need long-term care and support. This is to manage their general health, deal with problems from the cancer or its treatment, and cope with the emotional effects of cancer and fears of it coming back.

Finding a 'new normal'

A cancer diagnosis changes many things. People may have:

  • side effects from their cancer or treatment 
  • changes to the way their body looks or feels
  • changes to their work situation
  • financial concerns.

Even if you don’t have these problems, cancer can change your view of life. Many people re-evaluate their goals, values and priorities in life.

Sometimes, people say that you need to find a ‘new normal’. Not everyone likes this expression but it does explain some things. Your life will never be exactly the same as before but you can still find ways to make the most of it.

It isn’t about being strong. It is about taking care of yourself. That may include getting help from other people or a support group. The Cancer Council has programs and support groups to help people after they have finished treatment.

Worrying about cancer coming back

Many people worry about their cancer coming back after treatment. The chance of this happening is different for everyone. It depends on the type of cancer, the stage and grade, your general health, and the treatment you had. 

If you are worried about recurrence, it may help to talk to someone. People who can help include your GP, a social worker, a clinical psychologist or the Cancer Council. Some people find that mindfulness, meditation, yoga or tai chi can help manage these feelings.

You can also try to reduce your risk of recurrence by having a healthy lifestyle. 

Where to get help

There are people you can talk to for more information or support.

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