Ask Selma!

Q. I had a complete hysterectomy for stage 3 ovarian cancer followed by 6 inpatient chemotherapy treatments. What is the difference between remission and cancer free? Can the cancer recur elsewhere? What do I have to be aware of? I see my oncologist every 4 months and get a CA125 test.

A. I prefer the expression “cancer free” because it feels like a very accurate description for when one is no longer being treated for cancer because there is no evidence of the disease. It is how I refer to myself. The National Cancer Institute has given the following definition to the word remission as “a decrease in or disappearance of signs and symptoms of cancer.” I think that what matters most is how you perceive yourself now that treatment is behind you. The post treatment phase is a big adjustment and your confidence will grow with every passing day. It is very appropriate that you are seeing your oncologist every four months and getting a CA125 test. It is also wise to see your gynecologic oncologist for examinations, perhaps every six months to start. Annual tests could also include a PET/CT. Once anyone has had cancer, there is always the risk that it can recur elsewhere, so that’s one of the reasons our follow up care and routine exams are so important.

IMPORTANT NOTE: No information in the “Ask Selma” column is intended to diagnose or treat any condition and should not be construed as medical advice. The opinions expressed here are Selma’s and do not necessarily reflect those of Vital Options International. You should never delay seeking or disregard professional medical advice from your physician or other qualified health care provider because of something you read on any website.

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