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Damocles’ syndrome revisited: Update on the fear of cancer recurrence in the complex world of today’s treatments and survivorship

Affiliations 

Free PMC article

Abstract

Objective/background: Improvements in curative treatments for many types of cancer have emerged over the past several decades, resulting in a growing population of long-term cancer survivors – of both adult and childhood cancers. Despite this incredible medical achievement, long-term survivors of cancer face a unique fear: the fear of relapse.

Methods: We conducted a review of the literature for data on fear of relapse among cancer survivors.

Results: The fear of cancer recurrence is present in survivors of childhood and adult cancers as well as family members and often leads to psychological sequelae.

Conclusion: Literature on the fear of cancer recurrence has begun to emerge. However, herein we provide a unique approach through the use of a metaphor: Cicero’s story of Damocles’ sword. We aim to outline the many fear-related and emotional challenges faced by cancer survivors with an extensive review of studies demonstrating such challenges.

Keywords: Anxiety; Cancer; Fear of recurrence; Relapse; Survivorship.

Conflict of interest statement

Conflicts of interest statement

There are no conflicts of interest to disclose from any authors.

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