Health anxiety and fear of recurrence

21st May 2020

Managing a patient’s fear of cancer recurrence and health anxiety can be difficult. After treatment, many patients want to have the reassurance that they are cured. Generally it is not possible for health care professionals to say with absolute certainty that the cancer has been cured. Similarly, it may not be possible to say that it will never come back.

GatewayC’s ‘Colorectal Cancer – Long-Term Complications’ course includes a full interview with Anne Crook, Counsellor in Psycho-oncology at The Christie, discussing health anxiety and fear of recurrence.

Key points from the interview include:

  • How to identify health anxiety and fear in patients
  • How GPs can help and support patients
  • Support resources
  • When to refer patients to specialist services

Within the interview Anne Crook identifies key questions which can help identify whether the patient has abnormal health anxiety. These questions include: “Is it getting in the way of their day to day living?” “Are they thinking more about cancer and worrying about cancer? More times during the day that it gets in the way of making plans and getting on with things?” “Is it keeping them awake at night?” or “Do they find themselves on the internet lots and lots of times trying to check out their symptoms?”

To help and support patients’ fear of cancer recurrence GPs can:

  • Acknowledge how normal this is
  • Reassure the patient
  • Help the patient to discuss the impact of this on their life
  • Refer to specialist services if necessary

Find out more:

  • Learn more about Maggie’s, Macmillan and Cancer Research UK’s patient support groups and resources
  • Access GatewayC’s ‘Colorectal – Long-Term Complications’ course here
  • Read Cancer Research’s information on fear, anxiety and panic here

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