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Cancer Recurrence: Can it be Prevented?

Medically reviewed by John Paul Abrina, MD · Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

Written by Hello Doctor Medical Panel · Updated Jul 06, 2022

    Cancer Recurrence: Can it be Prevented?

    The recurrence of cancer is a return of cancer after a long period after not being detected by available tests. Read on to learn more about how to prevent cancer recurrence.

    In spite of attempts to rid the body of cancer, there is still a possibility that some cells will remain. This is especially true when treatment starts at a stage where cancer has metastasized. 

    If a person’s cancer returns, it might come back in the same place where it first appeared, or it may come back in another place. 

    The likelihood of cancer returning cannot be predicted, but cancer is more difficult to treat if it is fast-growing or widespread.  

    It is important to note that cancer recurrence is different from a secondary cancer. Cancer recurrence is essentially the return of the same cancer after a time of remission or nearly being cured. On the other hand, a new, secondary cancer can develop while the other cancer is active or in remission.

    how to prevent cancer recurrence

    Location of Recurrence 

    Cancer recurrence can occur at the same area where the cancer first arose or migrate to another part of your body. Oncologists describe recurrent cancer by the location of its development and extent of its spread. 

    Local recurrence 

    Local recurrence means that the cancer appeared in the same location where it was originally found.

    Regional recurrence

    Regional recurrence is a recurrence of cancer affecting the lymph nodes and tissues near the original area of cancer. 

    Distant recurrence

    When cancer spreads (metastasized) to areas which are farther away from where the original cancer was detected, it is called a distant recurrence.

    Knowing how to prevent cancer recurrence in specific parts of the body can be difficult. Depending on your original cancer type and stage, your cancer may recur in different areas.

    Recurrence of certain cancer types is common in specific areas. For example, it is common for thyroid cancer to spread to the lungs or the bones and grow tumors there. 

    how to prevent cancer recurrence

    Cause of Cancer Recurrence

    It is possible for cancer to return years after treatment. This is why health care providers don’t use the term “cure” but rather use the term “remission”. 

    When your doctor says your cancer has gone into remission, it means that you are no longer experiencing signs and symptoms of cancer but this does not mean that there is no longer cancer left in the body.

    Tests cannot always determine if there are any cancer cells left in the body that is why there is no one absolute solution on how to prevent cancer recurrence. 

    The cancer cells left could either be too few to find or too few to cause any symptoms. In addition, some cancer cells stay dormant and stop growing for a while making them difficult to detect. 

    Is Cancer Recurrence Worse?

    Different cancers have different manifestations so whether recurrence is worse than the original cancer depends on what type of cancer, what stage the cancer is currently in, and the location in which the cancer reappeared. This is why it’s important to know how to prevent cancer recurrence and make sure to adhere to follow-up check ups. 

    In most cases of localized recurrence, treatment is highly effective especially if it is detected early. However, for most cases of distant recurrence, treatment can be difficult and more complicated.

    How To Prevent Cancer Recurrence 

    There is no assurance that cancer will not return, but there are some tips you can follow on how to prevent cancer recurrence from happening to you. 

    • Maintain a regular exercise routine
    • Eat healthily and avoid too much meat
    • Manage your weight
    • Don’t miss any screenings
    • Lessen your stress
    • Put an end to smoking
    • Keep your mental well-being in mind

    Key Takeaway

    Cancer recurrence is when cancer that has been treated before resurfaces or reappears months or years later. Cancer recurrence happens because some of the cancer cells were not detected. Tests find it difficult to detect cancer cells if they are dormant or there are too few of them in the system. There is no absolute way on how to prevent cancer recurrence.

    Be sure to let your oncologist or primary care provider know of any changes in your health.

    Learn more about cancer, here.



    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    John Paul Abrina, MD

    Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

    Written by Hello Doctor Medical Panel · Updated Jul 06, 2022

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