Holidays Fuel a Common Fear Among Cancer Patients

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Jill Chadwick

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             Holidays are among a number of dates on the calendar that spark anxiety for cancer survivors according to two specialists at The University of Kansas Cancer Center. Lori Spoozak, MD, gynecological oncologist says she sees the return of a common fear among her patients.  “When diagnosed with cancer my patients often want to make it to a certain date,” Dr. Spoozak said.  “Once their cancer is gone the fear it will return heightens at certain times of the year like the holidays.”

            Julia Chapman, MD, gynecological oncologist and cancer survivor agrees. “The fear of my cancer returning never truly goes away,” Dr. Chapman said.  “Any discomfort I feel makes me worry my cancer could be returning and it’s the same for my patients.”

            The risks for cancer returning vary by cancer type.  Doctors recommend these tips for overcoming or managing cancer fears.  Know your risk of returning cancer and the symptoms so if the cancer returns you can start treatments right away.  Focus on wellness and staying healthy overall. During times that are more stressful like the holidays, doctors encourage patients to enjoy their life in every moment, do things that bring personal joy and focus on the legacy of their life. Create memories and record them or write them down for future generations.      Both doctors say patients often ask if they’re going to die from their cancer when presented with the diagnosis.  The doctors explain that fighting cancer is a long walk and it doesn’t stop at the end of treatment.  The doctors say they are with their patients every step of the journey.  In the video, Dr. Chapman shares more about her personal cancer journey and advice for patients.  Dr. Spoozak, who is also a palliative care doctor, shares how she helps patients better focus on their life in the here and now.