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What to Expect When Diagnosed with a Chronic Cancer

The American Cancer Society defines chronic cancer as controlled or stable cancer, meaning tests and scans show the cancer is not progressing over the course of time. Some cancer types, such as chronic leukemia, and some types of lymphomas and ovarian cancers, are ongoing – meaning they are never completely gone from your body. According to the American Cancer Society, some cancers that have spread or come back in other parts of the body, such as metastatic breast cancer or prostate cancer, may also become chronic cancers.

If you or your loved one recently received a chronic cancer diagnosis, you may be wondering what to expect. The following points offer insights into living with cancer as a chronic disease.

Your treatment options will vary, and may not necessarily be similar to treatment you received if you were previously diagnosed with cancer.

Extended treatment, which means your treatment is continuous or ongoing, is normal for cancers being managed as a chronic disease, and can control the cancer for long periods of time.

You may require additional rounds of testing.

This varies by patient and cancer type. Additional testing, such as blood tests and scans, may be necessary to determine the treatment options that are right for you.

You may hear your care team talk about recurrence and remission.

Some chronic cancers may go through cycles of recurrence and remission. Recurrence is based on the type of cancer you have, as well as other factors. Remission for patients living with cancer as a chronic disease means the cancer is stable, and treatment may be slowed or stopped for periods of time.

You may be a good fit for a clinical trial.

Your eligibility for a clinical trial depends on several criteria, including your age, type and stage of your cancer, previous treatment, and other factors. Talk to your care team about the benefits and risks of participating in a clinical trial.

You will have many questions.

You and your loved ones will have questions that will occur outside of your regularly scheduled appointments. Keep a journal or pen and paper nearby, so you can write your questions and concerns to take with you to your next appointment.

Texas Oncology offers resources for patients who are managing cancer as a chronic illness. The American Cancer Society also offers resources for patients with chronic cancer.