Shannen Doherty cancer: What does it mean to be in remission?

Actress Shannen Doherty announced in an Instagram post on Saturday (April 29) that her breast cancer is in remission.


Actress Shannen Doherty announced in an Instagram post on Saturday (April 29) that her breast cancer is in remission.

Doherty, who is now 46, was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2015 and has publicly documented her treatments, depending on Today .

But what does it mean for cancer to go into remission?

A “complete remission” means that doctors do not see evidence of cancer when they are examining a patient and taking scans, said Dr. Otis Brawley, the chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society.

More From LiveScience

  • What It Means to be in Remission | Video

  • The 10 Deadliest Cancers and Why There No Cure

  • Top 10 Cancer-Fighting Foods

  • 7 Cancers You Can ward off with Exercise

A cancer patient is said to be in remission if, after the treatment, the doctors look at the area where there was once a cancer and can no longer see the cancer, Brawley told Live Science.

But when a patient is in complete remission, but that does not mean that he or she is fully in the clear.

Cancer patients in remission should have regular examinations, so that doctors can look to see if the cancer has returned, an event, doctors call it a relapse, Brawley said. When a patient first comes the redemption, these “supervision” of the exams are carried out every few months, but they usually have more to spread, the longer the patient goes without a relapse.

It is possible for patients in complete remission for a number of years only to have a doctor detect cancer again in the body, Brawley said. In these cases, it is possible that the cancer was actually not bad, but was just too small for doctors to detect, he noted.

Because of this possibility, some doctors dislike to the use of the phrase “complete remission,” disagreeing with the certainty it implies. Instead, a doctor may say that a patient “, apparently in complete remission,” Brawley said.

A number of forms of cancer more likely to return than others, Brawley said. The chance of a relapse depends on the type of cancer and what stage it was in when it was discovered. For example, a person with stage 1 colon cancer (i.e. the cancer has not spread outside the colon) has a 5 percent chance of a relapse, Brawley said. But for a patient with stage 3 colon cancer (meaning the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in the groin ), the chance of a relapse is about 45 percent, he said.

Patients may also suffer from what doctors call “partial remission,” Brawley said. That means that the cancer has decreased in size by 50 percent, he said. When a cancer is in partial remission, the patient can less symptoms of the illness and his or her quality of life can improve, Brawley said. But this does not necessarily mean that the patient will live longer than they would have if the cancer had not shrunk by this amount, he added.

Originally published on Live Science .

Follow us

Don't be shy, get in touch. We love meeting interesting people and making new friends.

Most popular