Learning of a recurrence

Here people share how they reacted when they found out that their cancer had come back (also known as a ‘recurrence’). People reacted to the news in different ways and with a mix of feelings. They told us they felt:

  • Shock or disbelief
  • Relief
  • Disappointment
  • Acceptance
  • Positive

Some people found out during a routine check-up. Others had symptoms and went to the doctor.

At the hospital a doctor shocked Lesley with the news that she had liver metastases and that he…

Age at interview 47

Gender Female

Age at diagnosis 45

View profile

People usually learnt that their cancer had returned from a doctor in a hospital clinic once the test results were back. Steve thought the news was probably bad because a nurse was also there. It’s not always the case that a nurse will be there when you get bad news.

Helens Macmillan nurse asked her to call him. She phoned and was shocked to hear that her CT…

Age at interview 49

Gender Female

Age at diagnosis 47

View profile

When Ann looked at her CT scans she could see that the cancer had come back in the area where her…

Gender Female

Age at diagnosis 62

View profile


Some weren’t really surprised that their cancer had come back because they knew the chances were quite high. But they still felt shock and disbelief. Ann was scared that she would die quickly and it was difficult to plan her life. She didn’t feel depressed but she was very sad that she wouldn’t be able to see her grandchildren grow up. She also felt a sense of ‘Jewish guilt’ and of failure because she was giving her children so much to deal with and making them unhappy. Telling her children was very difficult.

Hamish had not been surprised because he’d lost so much weight. John was shocked to hear he now had cancer in his lung but it was not as bad as hearing that he had pancreatic cancer the first time.

Michael felt shocked by the recurrence. He had hoped to survive at least three years before any…

Age at interview 65

Gender Male

Age at diagnosis 63

View profile

The recurrence didnt surprise Hamish. He recognised that he had survived longer than many others…

Age at interview 76

Gender Male

Age at diagnosis 72

View profile


David felt relief that his doctors had found the cause of his symptoms. He had lost weight, with sickness and diarrhoea for about a year. He had been very upset when his GP suggested his symptoms might be all in his mind.

David felt angry because his doctors did not seem to take his symptoms seriously. He was relieved…

Age at interview 45

Gender Male

Age at diagnosis 38

View profile


When Audrey heard about her recurrence she was very disappointed and upset. She had thought that surgery had cured her. After getting the bad news she spent the first night lying awake thinking about what she planned to write to members of her family.


Others were more optimistic. Vicky said that nothing could be worse than the surgery she’d had already. She felt she had been lucky because she had been diagnosed early and survived surgery and she thought that other treatment would be minor in comparison. Peter was also optimistic and was confident that he would survive.

Peter had the philosophy that he would fight the disease and that he would be alright. His…

Age at interview 71

Gender Male

Age at diagnosis 69

View profile


Others felt they just had to accept what had happened. One man said that he’d had a good life and wanted to make the most of the time he had left. He decided to spend his remaining time, which was much longer than he expected, doing DIY, seeing family and going on holiday.

Signs or symptoms of cancer returning

Here people talk about the signs and symptoms they had when their pancreatic cancer returned. It may come back in the pancreas (recurrence) or spread...

Symptoms of more advanced disease

Here we talk to people who had pancreatic cancer about the symptoms they had when the disease became more advanced. We also spoke to partners...