Cancer remission: everything there is to know!
Published Feb 4, 2024 • By Candice Salomé
Remission is when cancer gives way and a patient's condition improves. When all signs of cancer disappear, it is called complete remission.
So what exactly is remission? What happens with the treatment plan at this stage?
We explain it all in our article!
What is remission?
Doctors rarely speak of a "cure" when talking to a patient being treated for cancer. Instead, they use the term "remission" or "complete remission", because it is possible for cancer to return, even after a long period of time.
Remission means a reduction in (partial remission) or disappearance of the signs and symptoms of cancer (complete remission).
After treatment, patients enter a period of follow-up care, during which they have to attend regular appointments with their specialist doctor. This follow-up takes into account international recommendations on cancer management as well as the medical history of the patient themselves. Regular medical appointments enable the effectiveness of treatments to be monitored over the long period of time, and allow to detect any complications associated with the disease and its treatments.
What is the follow-up care for patients in remission and how long does it last?
Post-treatment follow-up appointments include a physical examination and biological and/or imaging tests, depending on the location and characteristics of the tumor and the impact of cancer treatment on the patient.
These appointments also provide an opportunity for an open dialogue between the patient and the doctor(s). Patients can ask questions, report symptoms, share their concerns or discuss their daily lives and their lifestyle.
Patients should at any time, even in-between the appointments, be able to talk to their doctors about any symptoms that might appear abnormal or worrying.
Generally speaking, medical appointments during the follow-up care phase are gradually spaced out. If no recurrence happens for a certain period of time (depending on the characteristics of cancer), the patient is said to be in complete remission. Once this period has elapsed, follow-up appointments with your primary care physician are sufficient.
Life in remission
Even when treatment is over and visits to the hospital become increasingly rare, it can be difficult for patients to manage. Not all the anxieties associated with the disease disappear when treatment stops. The fear of a relapse remains. Even if the announcement of remission is generally a positive event, this transition period can be more difficult than patients had imagined. Contradictory feelings may arise: relief that the treatment is over, but also a feeling of vulnerability during the follow-up care.
What's more, remission is not always easy to cope with, as patients go from being "sick" and receiving a great deal of attention, to a time when those around them may think that the disease is "cured" and are therefore less present and attentive.
How to live well in remission?
When treatment stops, some patients feel tired or even exhausted, either physically and/or mentally. They no longer have the energy to carry out their usual activities, whether professional or leisure. This is normal and shouldn't be any more worrying than that, as it generally takes time to regain one's rhythm and energy. It is important to give yourself time.
Often, dealing with cancer allows patients to realize that life is precious and fragile, and also that the disease has made them stronger. Remission is also a perfect time to get closer to your loved ones, review your plans, be more in tune with yourself, and take time for yourself.
It can also be comforting to talk to other people who have been through cancer. There are online discussion groups such as Carenity and various support groups, both on a national and local scale, which can help patients in remission rebuild their lives after cancer.
Seeing a mental healthcare professional can also be useful.
Le suivi après-traitement, CHUV
Rémission, Institut National du Cancer
Rémission après un cancer : comment la vivre ?, Deuxième Avis
Comprendre le cancer et ses différentes phases, Vivre avec mon cancer
Revivre après les traitements, Roche
Rémission : de quoi s’agit-il ?, Fondation contre le cancer
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