Skip to content

Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Remission: What Does It Mean?

If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, you’re probably hoping to hear your doctor use the word “remission.” It marks a major turn in your care and long-term health. But it’s more complicated than simply being done with treatment.

There are two types of remission:

Recommended Related to Cancer


Note: Information about physical adjustment to treatment, problems with physical and cognitive development, and life after cancer treatment will be added to this summary in the future. The goal of supportive care is to improve the quality of life for young cancer patients and their families. Most children with cancer can be cured. However, cancer treatment for young patients can cause unwanted side effects and other problems during and after treatment. Early treatment of cancer symptoms...

Read the Overview article > >

  1. Partial remission means the cancer is still there, but your tumor has gotten smaller -- or in cancers like leukemia, you have less cancer throughout your body. Some doctors tell patients to think of their cancer as “chronic,” like heart disease. It’s something you will need to continue to check. If you’re in partial remission, it may mean you can take a break from treatment as long as the cancer doesn’t begin to grow again.
  2. Complete remission means that tests, physical exams, and scans show that all signs of your cancer are gone. Some doctors also refer to complete remission as “no evidence of disease (NED).” That doesn’t mean you are cured.

There’s no way for doctors to know that all of the cancer cells in your body are gone, which is why many doctors don’t use the word “cured.” If cancer cells do come back, it usually happens within the 5 years following the first diagnosis and treatment.

Understanding “Recurrence”

Some cancer cells can remain unnoticed in the body for years after treatment. If a cancer returns after it has been in remission, it’s called a “recurrence.” It’s normal to be concerned that this will happen to you. Every situation is different, and there’s no way to predict what will happen.

Your doctor or health care center will continue to check for signs of cancer or health problems related to your treatment. It’s crucial to get all recommended checkups, even if you have no symptoms. Follow-up care can include physical exams, blood tests, and imaging tests.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on April 01, 2014

Today on WebMD

Colorectal cancer cells
New! I AM Not Cancer Facebook Group
Lung cancer xray
See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
sauteed cherry tomatoes
Fight cancer one plate at a time.
Ovarian cancer illustration
Real Cancer Perspectives
Jennifer Goodman Linn self-portrait
what is your cancer risk
colorectal cancer treatment advances
breast cancer overview slideshow
prostate cancer overview
lung cancer overview slideshow
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
Actor Michael Douglas