When people receive a cancer diagnosis, they understandably want to know if their cancer can be cured. If a course of treatment is successful and there are no signs of remaining cancer cells, doctors will typically say the cancer is in remission, not cured. Patients who have had cancer need ongoing monitoring and testing to ensure that their cancer does not come back.
Serving New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, and the Washington, D.C., area, the oncologists of Regional Cancer Care Associates (RCCA) have expertise in treating all types of cancer, as well as blood disorders. RCCA’s talented team of experienced, board-certified oncologists and hematologists, advanced practice providers, and other clinicians guides patients through the cancer treatment process and follow-up care. Learn more about cancer remission.
The goal of treatment is to eliminate cancer cells from the body. Cancer treatment might include immunotherapy, targeted therapy, chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, and other interventions. When a patient goes into remission, it means the course of treatment was effective and his or her doctor does not see evidence of cancer remaining in the body.
After an initial course of treatment, a patient may be in partial or complete remission:
While cancer can be treated and monitored, in some cases it does not completely go away. Certain cancer types can become chronic, including:
Maintenance therapy can help keep cancer under control, preventing its return or spread. Depending on the type of cancer, maintenance therapy may include hormonal medications, vaccines, or antibody treatments.
Even if a patient is in complete remission, there is still a chance that cancer can come back. This is called recurrence, and it can happen weeks, months, or even years after a patient’s original course of treatment is complete. Cancer recurrence may be:
Most patients have follow-up care while in remission, which can include regular blood tests and imaging scans. This ongoing monitoring allows doctors to check whether the patient’s cancer has come back. According to the National Cancer Institute, most cancers that return do so within five years after the initial treatment. Recurrence rates depend on a variety of factors, including the type and stage of cancer and the patient’s overall health.
Making healthy lifestyle choices may help reduce the likelihood of cancer recurrence. These include:
Cancer treatment takes a physical toll on the body. Eating a healthy diet while in remission can help a patient build up strength and have more energy. In general, patients in cancer remission should:
It can be helpful to consult with a registered dietitian as part of a post-treatment care regimen. The dietitian can outline an eating plan tailored to a person’s specific needs.
A sedentary lifestyle is linked to a wide range of health problems, including cancer. Getting exercise and staying active is good for cancer survivors’ physical and mental health. Regular physical activity also can help patients maintain a healthy weight.
Stopping tobacco use and avoiding secondhand smoke improves a patient’s overall health. Smoking is not just linked to lung cancer – it also can lead to cancer in other parts of the body, such as the mouth, esophagus, and stomach.
Some patients struggle with stress, anxiety, and depression after cancer treatment, especially if they are worried about cancer recurrence. Healthy coping strategies such as meditation, exercise, and spending time outdoors can help patients cope with their emotions. Seeking out a survivor support group or seeing a counselor also can be beneficial.
As one of the largest cancer care networks in the United States, Regional Cancer Care Associates offers comprehensive support for patients in cancer remission. With personalized treatment plans and innovative therapies, the oncology team provides unparalleled care for a wide range of cancer types and blood disorders. And with more than 20 locations throughout New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, and the Washington, D.C., area, patients can receive care close to home. For more information, request an appointment today.