What does it mean to be in remission?

September 14, 2016 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health

After your cancer treatment has ended, the word remission may be music to your ears. Being in remission is often a goal for those diagnosed with cancer, but it can often bring hope, relief, worry and fear. What does it really mean anyway?  

If your doctor tells you your cancer is in remission, it often means there is a decrease in or disappearance of the signs and symptoms of cancer.  The signs and symptoms often tell your doctor that your treatment is working and your tumors are shrinking. When you enter into remission, you can reduce or maybe even stop your treatment.

Once your treatment is paused, there is often a need for follow-up care with your doctor. This is based on the stage and severity of the disease, and every type of cancer is different. Your doctor will work with you to determine your plan of care.

Unfortunately many of us know that cancer isn’t always a one-time event. It can be a chronic, ongoing illness that never completely goes away like diabetes or heart disease.

To make matters more overwhelming, there are two different kinds of remission: partial remission and complete remission. 

  • In a complete remission, all signs and symptoms of cancer have disappeared. 
  • In a partial remission, the tumor and the cancer in your body itself has decreased, but there may be some signs and symptoms that remain to indicate cancer. Some cancer cells may still remain in your body many years after cancer has been treated, which may cause the cancer to return one day.

The American Cancer Society says to qualify for either type of remission, the absence of a tumor, or the reduction in the size of the tumor, must last for at least one month.

With all this said, there is hope in moving past the disease.

If you are in remission, you can fight the fear of cancer returning by facing your fear head on, having a plan with your doctor for follow-up care and talking about your fear with others. It is also important to  live a healthy lifestyle, maintain a healthy diet, keep busy and pay attention to signs and signals from your body.

You can also join a support group or virtual support group to share your experience and connect with others.

How do you stay hopeful and work toward remission? Tell us in the below comments.

Find cancer support services at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

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