June 2, 2019, is Cancer Survivors Day. If you’re a survivor, this day may come with mixed emotions.

Now that your treatment is over, you may find that you’re thinking a lot about what you’ve been through. While you’re happy and thankful to be finished with treatment, you may also feel down. This contrast can be difficult to handle.

You’re not alone in your feelings.

As you go through this day, know that you’re not alone in your feelings. It’s common for cancer survivors to experience a range of emotions – both good and bad.

Right now, you may feel:

  • Anxious about the uncertainty of life after cancer or about paying your medical bills
  • Scared that cancer will return or that you may die
  • Angry because your body is not the same as before or you think you could’ve done more to prevent cancer
  • Sad because you’re still dealing with the side effects of cancer treatment or you’ve grown close to your cancer care team and miss their support

It’s OK to feel these things. Being a cancer survivor doesn’t mean you should feel positive all the time. Allow yourself to process these emotions, and remind your loved ones that you still need their support.

The fear of cancer recurrence

Of all the worries you may have, cancer recurrence is likely one of them – it’s the most common fear among cancer survivors.

This fear is completely normal and warranted. After all, even though many advancements have been made, people still die from cancer. One way to manage this fear is by talking about it with your loved ones.

Getting a personalized treatment and survivorship care plan from your care team may also help. They arm you with information about your prognosis, treatment and follow-up care so you can feel more prepared for the road ahead.

Understanding cancer survival rates

The five-year survival rate for all types of cancer has gone up considerably since the 1960s – from 39% to 70% for Caucasians and 27% to 63% for African Americans.

Of the most common cancers – breast, prostate, lung and colorectal – today’s five-year survival rates compared with the 1980s are:

  1987-1989 2008-2014
Breast Cancer 84% 91%
Prostate Cancer 83% 99%
Lung and Bronchus Cancer 13% 20%
Colorectal Cancer 60% 66%

It might be helpful to know that some doctors and researchers believe that current survival rate numbers may not paint the whole picture of cancer survival today for several reasons, including:

  • They’re based on patients who were diagnosed several years ago before recent diagnostic and treatment advancements were available.
  • They don’t reflect individual factors that affect survival, such as access to care and coexisting health conditions.
  • They could be affected by things like overdiagnosis (when cancer that would’ve never caused harm is treated).

When considering this information, it’s good to remember that more cancer breakthroughs are being made every day. Taking your oncologist’s advice on follow-up care will keep you as healthy as possible and connected to all these new advancements. Joining a support group may also help you navigate life after cancer, too.