Shannen Doherty, American actress, television director, and author, was diagnosed with breast cancer in early 2015. Her battle with cancer was fierce as she underwent chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and mastectomy to fight the disease that affects more than 15 million Americans every year. (3) Two years after her diagnosis, she is finally and officially in remission!
In this March 2017 interview, Shannen opens up about her experience battling cancer:
How likely it is that cancer returns
According to the American Cancer Society, it’s not possible to predict how likely it is for cancer to return, but it could come back if remaining cancer cells grow or spread too fast. (1) Recurrence also depends on the type of tumor, the stage of the disease, and the treatment that was received. (3)
Why the First 5 Years are Important
Shannen is happy about her results but she admits that “even with positive results, it’s the next five years that determine so much.” Five years is the period most often used to determine whether cancer patients will survive after their diagnosis. (4) Researchers use the five-year period to compare the survival rate of patients who have been diagnosed with specific types of cancer. That is how they determine which cancer patients are more likely to survive. (2)
For example, 99% patients who are diagnosed with prostate cancer are alive five years after their diagnosis, but only 7% of pancreatic cancer patients survive during the same period. In the case of breast cancer, 89% of patients survive the first five years after their diagnosis. (3)
How to Help Your Body Heal After Cancer
After remission, it’s important to develop and maintain these healthy habits.
Physical activity helps with mental health and makes recovery faster. A study found that exercising 3 times a week benefited the heart and lungs of breast cancer survivors, helped with their self-esteem, and improved their overall quality of living. (7)
Eat well and maintain a healthy weight
Eat more fruit, vegetables, and whole grains and less fat, meat, and sugar. (4) A study suggests that being obese or underweight increases the risk of cancer recurrence and mortality. Weight management through a balanced diet and healthy food choices increases the likelihood of cancer survival. (9)
Smoking can prevent your chances of getting better and increases the risk of developing 12 different types of cancer. Specifically, smoking interferes with cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, increases the risk of infection, and slows down healing. (6)
Be careful in the sun
Wear protective clothes and sunscreen, and avoid tanning beds. (5)
Cancer remission is a great first step to healing, but you should also take care of yourself to help your recovery. Engage in physical activity, plan a healthy diet, and avoid harmful behaviours such as smoking or being unprotected against the sun. The way to recovery is long, but you can make small steps every day.
(1) American Cancer Society. (February 12, 2016). What is cancer recurrence?
(2) American Cancer Society. (August 18, 2016). Breast Cancer Survival Rates.
(3) American Cancer Society. (2016). Cancer Treatment & Survivorship Facts & Figures 2016-2017. Atlanta: American Cancer Society.
(4) Barrera, S., Demark-Wahnefried, W. (February, 2009). Nutrition during and after cancer therapy. Oncology (Williston Park), 23(2), 15-21.
(5) Buchanan, N., Leisenring, W., Mitby, P. A., Meadows, A. T., Robison, L.L., Hudson, M. M., Mertens, A. C. (September 15, 2009). Behaviors associated with ultraviolet radiation exposure in a cohort of adult survivors of childhood and adolescent cancer: a report from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. Cancer, 115(18), 4374-4384.
(6) Burke, L., Miller, L. A., Saad, A., Abraham, J. (January 2009). Smoking behaviors among cancer survivors: an observational clinical study. Journal of Oncology Practice, 5(1), 6-9.
(7) Courneya, K. S., Mackey, J. R., Bell, G. J., Jones, L.W., Field, C. J., Fairey, A. S. (May 1, 2003). Randomized controlled trial of exercise training in postmenopausal breast cancer survivors: cardiopulmonary and quality of life outcomes. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 21(9), 1660-1668.
(8) National Cancer Institute. (November 24, 2014). Understanding Cancer Prognosis.
(9) Toles, M., Demark-Wahnefried, W. (August 2008). Nutrition and the cancer survivor: evidence to guide oncology nursing practice. Seminars in Oncology Nursing. 24(3), 171-179.