Cancer recurrence involves returning of cancer after successful treatment. It may occur after months or years after the treatment. There are several reasons for cancer recurrence. It is important to maintain hope and positivity while fighting cancer recurrence.
Reasons for cancer recurrence
There are several reasons why cancer returns. Some of them are:
- Hiding of cancer cells: There are several treatment options for cancer. These include chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and surgery. However, cancer cells may hide from these treatments and cause cancer recurrence. There are several theories to understand how cancer cells hide in the body despite advancements in the treatment option that result in its recurrence.
During the active phase of the disease, the cells hide from the immune system due to the synthesis of proteins. One concept for hiding the cancer cells during the treatment phase is cancer stem cells. Chemotherapy works on the rapidly dividing cells of the body, including cancer cells. However, some cancerous cells have a slower growth rate than others. These cells are known as stem cancer. Their slow-growing property helps them to hide from chemotherapy. Once the treatment gets over, these cells again separate from the tumor and cause cancer recurrence.
- Spread of cancer from the primary location: Treatment also affects the recurrence of cancerous cells. Once the patient is diagnosed with cancer, the doctor performs several imaging techniques. Based on the findings of the imaging tests, the doctor decides the treatment. In some cases, imaging techniques cannot detect micrometastasis cells. These cells spread from the primary site to the nearby tissues through the blood or lymphatic system. Surgery and radiation therapies are unable to treat these undetectable cells. After the treatment, these cells divide rapidly, resulting in cancer recurrence.
- Non-dividing cancer cells: Another concept of cancer recurrence is dormancy. Although cancer cells have the characteristic of rapid division, not all cancer cells rapidly divide all the time. Some of the cancer cells are in a dormant stage. Further, these cancerous cells may be at different cell division stages. Chemotherapy works on rapidly dividing cells. Thus, the cells in the dormant or non-dividing stage escape chemotherapy. Further, each chemotherapy drug kills the cancer cells in a particular stage of cell division. Thus, cells at a specific division stage not covered by a particular drug may escape and cause cancer recurrence. It is one of the reasons why oncologists administer drug combination therapy in cancer.
- Recovery of cancer cells: In many cases, the cancer is treated through radiotherapy. Radiotherapy is used along with surgery or chemotherapy with the hope that the cancer cells that remain after the chemotherapy or surgery are killed by the radiation therapy. However, some cells spread beyond the treatment area of radiation therapy. Further, radiation therapy destroys cancer cells by damaging their DNA. However, in some cases, the cancer cells can recover. It results in cancer recurrence.
What to do when cancer returns
- Consult with the doctor: It is important to consult the top cancer specialists in Nashik if you experience any symptoms that cause concern. Note that the symptoms of cancer during recurrence may differ from the previous cancer symptoms, as now the cancer site may differ due to metastasis. Do not wait for the next scheduled follow-up visit to consult with the doctor. Undergo imaging techniques to determine the cause of your symptoms. Your early diagnosis of recurring cancer proves vital in improving outcomes. You may also take a second opinion.
- Search for other strategies: Apart from the conventional treatment options suggested by your oncologists, you should also search for alternatives. These alternatives may not affect the disease directly but may provide you with the required strength to fight the disease. These strategies may include yoga, meditation, and exercise (under expert supervision).
- Advanced information and treatment: After your first fight against cancer, and of course, you have won, you have more information about the disease. You are aware of every aspect of cancer and know how to fight the disease. Look for more information, such as advanced treatment strategies and new drugs for cancer. There is a rapid evolution in the cancer treatment space, and new drugs with improved outcomes are available. Patients should receive cancer recurrence treatment at the best cancer hospital in Nashik.
- Hope and courage: Do not lose hope. Remember that if you have defeated the disease once, you can do it the second time. Build strong relations with your healthcare team. Take advice from the support group who have fought and won against cancer recurrence. It will induct significant courage. You may also take help from the counselor to manage stress and anxiety. Eat a healthy diet and take good care of yourself.
Which cancers most commonly recur?
Several cancers have an increased risk of recurrence than others. There is a 90% recurrence rate of glioblastoma (in the brain and spinal cord) and an 85% recurrence rate of ovarian cancer after successful treatment. Certain lymphomas also have high recurrence rates. Further, cancer diagnosed during the advanced stage is more likely to recur after successful treatment.