CureSearch for Children's Cancer funds and supportstargeted and innovative children's cancer research with measurableresults, and is the authoritative source of information and resourcesfor all those affected by children's cancer.
Sometimes, despite the best care and significant progress made in treatment, cancer comes back. When this happens it is called a recurrence or relapse. The likely relapse occurs is that a few of the original cancer cells survived the initial treatment. Sometimes, this is because cancer cells spread to other parts of the body and were too small to be detected during the follow-up immediately after treatment.
When cancer recurs, you may feel familiar reactions, such as shock and disbelief. You may wonder, "how could this happen?" or “why, if we did everything as instructed, would the disease return?” Some parents often report feeling guilty, as if they somehow deceived their child by providing false hope of a cure. It is important to understand that you did not do anything wrong. It is also not unusual for families to feel anger at the medical team as who seems to have “misled” them. You should feel free to discuss these feelings with the health care team.
Many parents report even stronger feelings during relapse than at diagnosis. Families commonly feel sad, angry and overwhelmed about their circumstance. Your response may be even more complicated than the initial diagnosis, in part because you have a better idea of what to expect. And this time you may feel “different” from families you know whose children have not relapsed.
At relapse, you and your family may need help finding strength again. There may be a sense that your basic endurance is being tested. The negative emotions of anger, sadness, fear, preoccupation and hopelessness often need to be redirected into the promise of a new protocol or resetting the goals for your child and family. It is important to maintain realistic hopes – hopes that may still focus on cure but also, if cure is not possible, upon optimizing the time you have. Your child’s cancer center has a number of resources available to assist you and your family, from social workers to psychologists to local support groups to palliative care teams.
The chances for successful treatment of a relapsed cancer are unique to each patient and should be discussed with your health care team. Success depends upon the original type of tumor, what treatment was initially used, the length of time since the end of treatment and the general health of the child.