Thursday, October 6, 2011

Ongoing Cancer: Understanding Cancer that Doesn't Go Away

For some people, cancer is a one-time event. They go through treatment and recovery, and the disease does not return. For others, cancer may not ever fully disappear. Their cancer may respond to treatment and then come back, or treatment may simply keep it from growing and spreading. For people living with cancer, it's important to understand what it means when cancer doesn't go away – and how remission and recurrence may be part of your cancer journey.

Facing the same cancer more than once can be a frustrating and exhausting experience. Learn how you can better cope with the effects of recurring cancer here.
When cancer is not growing or changing but is still present in your body, over time, it is sometimes referred to as a "chronic" (meaning ongoing) disease. The cancer may be responding to treatment well enough that it is not growing, spreading, or causing new issues, but the signs and symptoms of the cancer remain. In cases like these, cancer can sometimes be managed with ongoing care, much like other chronic diseases such as heart disease or diabetes. In other cases, the cancer may mean that signs and symptoms of the cancer go away partially or completely thanks to treatment, but the cancer is still in the body. When the signs and symptoms of cancer aren't present for at least a month, doctors refer to this period as remission. Some remissions can last months or years, but since the cancer may not be totally gone, a remission is not considered a "cure." The cancer could come back, and you may need additional treatments to try to control it once more.

When a cancer comes back after treatment, it is known as cancer recurrence. The cancer sometimes returns at the same spot (known as local recurrence) or it may show up in parts of the body that were not previously affected. Some types of cancers, such as ovarian cancer, are more likely to return than others. People with recurring cancer may need multiple rounds of treatment or they may need to change the type of treatment they receive.

Remember that even when a cure is not possible, treatment may help keep cancer at bay. If you have cancer that does not go away, talk to your doctor about what options may be right for you.

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