Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors

"What does it mean when cancer is in remission?"

ZocdocAnswersWhat does it mean when cancer is in remission?


My aunt had breast cancer, but the doctor told her it is now in remission. What does this mean? Does this mean she doesn't have cancer anymore?


First of all I am sorry to hear that your aunt had breast cancer, although that is good news that her physician thinks that it is likely in remission. Remission is a term that physicians (or other people in the medical profession) to refer to the absence of disease activity within a patient in the setting of a chronic disease or illness. It implies that there is a potential chance for recurrence (relapse), but doesn't tell anything about the chances of this occurring. I am assuming that in this case your aunts physician is unable to detect the cancer anymore, which is a very good thing. Depending on the disease process, in some cases when the patient has been in "remission" long enough, then we would start to talk about "cure". This is a difficult term to use when speaking of cancer however, because of our inability to very accurately predict if cancer will come back or not in any given individual. So to answer your second question, it doesn't strictly mean that she doesn't have the cancer anymore, it may just mean that it is so little that we can't detect it, or it is not "active". I hope that this information is helpful. For answers to questions like these, I would recommend that the two of you make an appointment with the physician that treated your aunt as they will be able to give you the most directed answers. Best of luck.

Zocdoc Answers is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.