It’s common to be overwhelmed by different feelings when you find out your cancer has come back or spread. Some people may have a cancer that is advanced when they are first diagnosed. For others, the cancer may spread or come back after treatment.
Although it is rare for advanced cancer to be cured, some people may live with it for a long time – sometimes for years. This may mean having treatments when you need them. Sometimes you may need ongoing treatment to control the cancer.
During this time, many people can carry on with their day-to-day lives and do the things that are important to them.
For some people, it may not be possible to control the cancer any longer or they may not be well enough to have treatment. In this case, their cancer doctor or specialist nurse will make sure they have treatments to manage any symptoms they may have.
When you first find out your cancer is advanced, you may feel shocked and find it hard to take in. You may feel frightened about the future, or angry with other people or yourself. These feelings usually become more manageable with time, and as you start making decisions and plans.
Knowing that your illness may not be curable can give you the chance to decide what’s important to you, and how you want to live your life. Concentrating on what you can enjoy and achieve can be satisfying. It may also help you cope if you find you can’t meet other goals.
Some people may want to think about what they might want if they were to become less well. For example, they may want to record their wishes about how and where they would want to be cared for. This is sometimes called advance care planning.