Overview of Remission
If you or your loved one has been diagnosed with cancer, the first thing that comes to mind is, “Is this cancer curable?” Cancer is a complex disease . One of the primary goals of the treatment of most cancers is remission.
While completely eradicating cancer cells from your body is the ultimate aim, remission is great news too!
What is remission?
When you are told that your cancer is in remission, it means that there are little or mild traces of cancer in your body and that your signs and symptoms have completely reduced. In cases of remission, cancer cells reduce to such a small number that they are not easily detected on any of the diagnostic devices.
For example, in cases of blood cancers like leukemia, a state of remission would mean a significant decrease in the number of cancerous cells. In the case of solid tumors, remission would mean a reduction in the size of the tumor, and it remaining the same reduced size for at least a month.
Types of remission
Remission is of different types:
- Complete: As the name suggests, your cancer is said to be in complete remission when all signs and symptoms, along with detectable cancer cells, are gone. Many oncologists declare a case as cured when cancer has been in remission for five years or longer.
- Partial: Your cancer is said to be in partial remission if the treatment you are undergoing has destroyed most of your cancer cells, but there are some still lingering in your body.
Your cancer is said to be in remission also when the number of detectable cancer cells or the size of the tumor has reduced to at least 50% or more. This is said to be a stable state, and many of your signs and symptoms begin to reduce too.
- Spontaneous: In some rare cases, your cancer may suddenly go into remission without any treatment. This usually happens following a fever or infection.
Diagnosis of remission—How to know if you are in remission?
All through your cancer treatment, your healthcare team will continuously monitor your cancer cells and other health parameters to determine how effective the treatment is. Even during remission, tests will be performed on you to determine the presence of cancer cells in your body .
If you have a solid tumor, tests will be done to check for the size of the tumor over a period of time. Some tests that are performed include routine blood tests, X-rays, MRI, CT-Scans, and biopsy. As mentioned earlier, a reduction of the number of cancer cells or a reduction in the size of your tumor indicates that your cancer may be going into remission.
However, this does not immediately mean that your cancer has been cured. To observe and tackle the number of circulating cancer cells, you will need regular follow-ups and tests with your Oncology team to prevent reactivation of the disease.
Getting into remission
Two common questions that may arise in your mind may be—“Is remission the same as a cure?” and “How do I know that I am in remission?” Let’s tackle them one at a time.
Firstly, as we have seen earlier, remission is not the same as cure. Remission is when there are still a few cancer cells in your blood, or the size of the tumor has reduced significantly. When cancer is said to be cured completely, there are no signs of any cancer cells in your body whatsoever.
When your cancer is said to be in remission for at least five years or more, it can be called as cured since most cancers tend to recur in the first five years.
Secondly, when you begin going into remission, your signs and symptoms improve, and you start feeling healthy and fit again. Your regular follow-ups and test results show improvement, and your doctor will inform you about the same.
But, how does one get into remission? This depends upon a few factors, such as:
- The type of cancer you have
- Stage of your cancer
- Your age and overall health status
- The treatment provided
If your cancer is in its early stages and the cells have not spread to other parts of the body, some can kill the cancer cells, and your path to remission is quicker. You will find immediate relief from symptoms (if any), and your tumor will begin shrinking in size.
Some commonly used cancer treatments that can help you go into remission are:
- Radiation therapy
- Targeted drug therapy
- Surgical removal of the tumor, followed by one or more of the above treatments
- Hormone therapy
- Bone-marrow or stem-cell therapy
In most cases, one or more of the above treatments may be needed to completely eliminate the cancer cells from your body. It is also important to understand that every cancer treatment has its own risks and side-effects. Your doctor will discuss the same with you before your treatment begins.
Treatment during remissions
If you think that your treatment ends when your cancer enters a state of remission, it is not so. Even after your cancer has been declared to be in the state of remission, you will need to undergo some form of treatment and monitoring .
This is because, in the state of remission, there are still some cancer cells in your body, and treatment during this phase will reduce the chances of these cancer cells from becoming active again. Even if you are not given radiation or chemotherapy, you may be given drug therapy that ensures your cancer remains in remission and, in due course of time, disappears completely .
If your maintenance therapy appears to be reducing in its efficacy, your doctor may change the course of your treatment and ensure your cancer doesn’t get active again. If you have any queries about your cancer maintenance therapy, contact our top Oncology experts.
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Are there chances of recurrence in remission? And how to stay there
One of the major reasons for treatment during remission and for regular observations and follow-ups is the chance of recurrence. When your cancer cells become reactivated after a period of remission, it is called cancer recurrence.
Recurrence of cancer after or during remission is a normal occurrence and is often unpredictable. This makes regular follow-ups absolutely critical as even the smallest sign of cancer cells reactivating can be spotted by your oncologist, and immediate treatment can be meted out.
Once in remission, many people like you wish to know how they can stay in this state until their cancer is completely weeded out of their bodies. Here are a few ways to stay healthy and in remissions:
- Eat a healthy diet that helps boost your immunity
- Avoid habits like smoking, alcohol, and drug intake
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Have a regular exercise and workout routine
- Avoid stress
- Find support in family, friends, support groups as mental health is very important to cure cancer.
Cancer can be unpredictable, and this is why you may experience fear and anxiety about your condition. However, with the right diagnosis and treatment, cancers can go into remission and eventually get cured completely. Feel free to discuss the various scenarios and treatment options with your doctor.
If you wish to consult with our cancer specialists,
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