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Cancer Support: When Your Cancer Comes Back or Gets Worse

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Cancer Support: When Your Cancer Comes Back or Gets Worse


When cancer comes back or spreads, you may find yourself looking for ways to cope with what is happening. Your past experience has taught you a lot about what helps you in tough situations. Think about how that can help you now.

  • Use what you learned before.

    Every life has challenges, and you have learned things from all of your experiences. Being aware of what helps you can be a source of strength and wisdom now. Think about what worked—and what didn't work—for you in the past.

    • What things have helped you cope with challenges before? Which of them could help you this time?
    • Who can you count on for support? What kind of support would be most helpful to you?
    • What did you learn from your first experience with cancer that could be useful now?
  • Understand your options.

    Tests will help your doctor know which treatments might help you. Talk openly and honestly with your doctor. This can help you understand your options and decide about treatments. Knowing what may lie ahead can help you set realistic goals.

  • Focus on what brings you hope.

    Practicing a more hopeful outlook can actually help you feel better. This is because hope connects us to an inner strength that can help guide us through stressful situations. You can build hope by doing something every day that gives your life meaning. This might be prayer, meditation, or spending time outdoors. Try to stay in the present. Acknowledge your fears, but don't dwell on them. Do things you enjoy, and spend time with people you love.

Getting support

Relationships take on new importance when you're faced with cancer. Your family and friends can help support you. You may also want to look beyond those who are close to you.

  • Reach out to your family and friends.

    Remember that the people around you want to support you, and asking for help isn't a sign of weakness.

  • Tell them how they can help.

    Your friends and family want to help, but some of them may not know what to do. It may help to make a list. For example, you might ask them to:

    • Run errands or pick up kids.
    • Deliver meals or groceries to your home.
    • Drive you to appointments.
    • Go to doctor visits with you and take notes.
  • Look for help from other sources.

    Places to turn for support include:

    Counseling can help you cope with cancer and the effect cancer is having on your life. Different types of counseling include family therapy, couples therapy, group counseling, and individual counseling.
    Your health care team.
    Your team should be supportive. Be open and honest about your fears and concerns. Your doctor can help you get the right medical treatments, including counseling.
    Spiritual or religious groups.
    These groups can provide comfort and may be able to help you find counseling or other social support services.
    Social groups.
    Social groups can help you meet new people and get involved in activities you enjoy. Focus on activities that bring you comfort, such as spending time outdoors or being with children.
    A cancer support group.
    Cancer support groups offer support and practical advice. You can hear others talk about:
    • What it's like to live with cancer.
    • Practical ways to manage your cancer treatment and its side effects.
    • Ways to cope with your illness.

Where to learn more

Ask your doctors to suggest good sources for cancer information. They may have information for you or may recommend trustworthy websites. And many hospitals have medical libraries that are open to the public.

A number of national organizations have websites you can trust. They include:

  • The American Cancer Society (ACS) at
  • The National Cancer Institute (NCI) at
  • The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) at
  • The Patient Advocate Foundation at


Current as of: October 25, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

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