If you have ever been diagnosed with cancer, or if you have ever supported a close friend or loved one through their fight with cancer, you’ll know all too well that the one word you want to hear is ‘remission’. But how much do we actually know about what remission means? This is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s time for a small celebration. Remission marks a very positive turning point in the cancer treatment process. For further information on cancer, see ‘how quickly does lung cancer progress?’. However, doctors can never be certain that all of the cancer cells have been completely removed or zapped away from treatment. That’s why remission is a double-edged sword of promise and hope. There are two types of remission. Let’s take a look.
This is the first stage in any type of cancer remission. Partial remission simply means that the cancer has not been fully removed, but the tumour has reduced in size (or in quantity in the case of leukemia). The major positive about going into partial remission is that the patient may be able to take a break from treatment, allowing the body to recover somewhat – these valuable stores of strength may be needed if the cancer comes back and further treatment is required. In general, a time frame of around five years marks the point at which any cancer that has not yet returned is unlikely to return.
Complete remission is the point at which all tests/scans and physical examinations reveal that the cancer has fully left the patient’s system, meaning there is NED (No Evidence of Disease). This, for every single cancer patient, marks the end of all battles and indeed draws a line under their personal war on cancer – for now.
Unfortunately, certain cancer cells can remain in the body for several years, undetected and waiting to resurface. These ticking time bombs cannot be detected by scanning equipment and can only be assumed to have been completely eradicated after around five years without symptoms. Regular check-ups and testing is required to make sure that “recurrence” as it is known has not become an issue. Understandably, this is why many patients who have been given the “complete remission” news still have anxieties and worries about their future health. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can give your body the best chance of not developing symptoms or of fighting off the disease for a second time.