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What Does Getting The ‘All-Clear’ In Cancer Really Mean?

When you have been diagnosed with cancer, you will hear a lot of terminology that you will probably not be familiar with. One term you would have, undoubtedly, heard before though is ‘getting the all clear’. However, do you really understand what it means? Hearing your oncologist say those words will come as a huge relief to any cancer patient, as you are likely to assume they are saying you have beaten the disease and regained full health. Unfortunately, it is impossible to ensure someone is completely cured of their cancer, as there is always the chance it could return. Doctors instead will typically say patients are in remission or have the ‘all clear’ when signs of their cancer have been reduced or disappeared entirely. The National Cancer Institute explains: “If you remain in complete remission for five years or more, some doctors may say that you are cured.” However, it is possible that some cancer cells remain in the body even several years after intense treatment. These cells could potentially multiply in the future, causing the cancer to return. The majority that do come back do so within five years. Therefore, the longer a patient has been in remission, the better chance they have of the cancer not returning. In order to reduce the risk of this happening, patients will continue to be monitored for years. They will undertake tests and scans periodically to check whether the cancer has returned, while their symptoms will also be assessed. Therefore, the term ‘all clear’ simply means there are no signs of cancer at the moment. Cancer sufferers who have undergone lots of therapies and possibly even surgery to remove traces of cancer from their body might feel frustrated to find out the ‘all clear’ is not as definite as they may have presumed. However, being in remission means the treatment has been successful and there is a high chance of a long future ahead.

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