Cancer remission. What does it mean, and how long does it last?

“Remission” is one of the most anticipated words for people with cancer. This information from the doctor is very good news. What does complete and partial remission mean, how long does it last when does it mean “cured”, what is disease progression?

A cancer remission is a period in which there are no signs or symptoms of the disease. It can appear spontaneously or as a result of the therapy being used. In complete remission, all cancer symptoms disappear, whereas in partial remission, the cancer shrinks but does not disappear. During the course of the disease, remission may occur more than once. Depending on the type of cancer, treatment may be continued or discontinued while in remission. Relapse occurs when the disease returns after remission. 

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Remission and cancer cure

We commonly refer to the disease’s “regression,” or the absence of its symptoms, but this does not imply the disease’s “absence.” Remission is not the same as curing. A cure means that there is no evidence of cancer after treatment, that no additional treatment is required, and that the cancer is not expected to return. It is important to note, however, that if the cancer has been in complete remission for 5 years or more, some doctors may declare it cured. 

Complete and partial remission

When evaluating the immediate response to treatment, partial and complete remission are referred to.

  • Complete remission is the disappearance of all symptoms of cancer and its clinical foci, which has been confirmed in tests.Complete remission, as determined by tests, is the absence of all signs of cancer and its clinical foci.
  • Partial remission means that the symptoms of the cancer have not gone away completely, but they are decreasing, for example, the original mass of the tumor and its dimensions are reduced. In partial remission, the cancer’s symptoms have not entirely disappeared but are getting better. For instance, the tumor’s original size and mass have shrunk.

Disease stabilization is achieved through low-toxic treatment, which is more beneficial to the patient than short-term remission. Objective and subjective assessments of side effects and quality of life are important for determining the course of the disease.

What can affect the remission of cancer?

Not all cancers go into remission. In general, the following are more likely to go into remission:

  • cancer diagnosed at an early stage,
  • non-metastatic cancer,
  • cancer that is less aggressive.

According to research, many different factors may favor the regression of cancer symptoms, such as a positive attitude, stress reduction, stimulants, and a proper diet. Remember that, thanks to modern treatment methods, even stage IV cancer can be cured.

How long does cancer remission last?

Cancer remission can last from a few weeks to many years, depending on the type, stage, and response to initial treatment. The risk of remission is higher in the first few years after treatment and when the cancer has metastasized or is at an advanced stage. Recurrence could be caused by some cancer cells remaining despite treatment or their ability to outwit drugs.

Cancers with a lower risk of recurrence include:

  • Hodgkin lymphoma,
  • ER+ breast cancer,
  • kidney cancer,
  • osteosarcoma. 

The following cancers have a high recurrence rate :

  • glioblastoma,
  • ovarian cancer,
  • soft tissue sarcoma,
  • bladder cancer,
  • pancreatic cancer,
  • colon cancer,
  • peripheral T-cell lymphoma 

Cancer is in remission, and then what?

Further treatment in cancer remission may differ. Treatment may no longer be required, but regular check-ups and examinations at a cancer center are unavoidable. Maintenance treatment is when treatment is continued while in remission. Regular check-ups, regardless of recommendations, allow for early detection of possible recurrence and prompt treatment of cancer that has reappeared. That is why they are significant.

What is cancer progression?

Cancer progression occurs when a cancer disease worsens or spreads throughout the body. According to some sources, it is a 25% increase in tumor size or the appearance of new tumor foci. When a patient’s condition worsens despite treatment, this term is most commonly used. The treatment is then considered a failure.



4th Professional Medical Student. Karachi Medical and Dental College.

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