Can You Be Cancer-Free? Defining Detection and Remission - Ezra (2024)

Key takeaways:

  • “Cancer-free” usually means remission of cancer with no significant evidence of disease recurrence.
  • One can also minimize cancer risk through disease prevention, including lifestyle choices, though this is not a guarantee.
  • Regular cancer screening can help reduce the cancer risk.

Patients and loved ones are often confused about the terms “remission” and “cancer-free” and “cancer survivor.” Others wonder if you can beat cancer by detecting it early or through treatment. Read on for clarity in these areas.

Three Words You Don’t Want To Hear

“You have cancer.”

For three-quarters of all families in America, at least one family member will be diagnosed with cancer.

A cancer diagnosis is often unexpected, coming after a routine treatment or test. For others, it’s the culmination of many months of testing. Though they cannot usually diagnose cancer, a radiologist might spot a concerning abnormality. Staging and prognosis can follow an oncology referral, more medical imaging, blood tests, and perhaps a biopsy or bone marrow test.

Next, your doctor or team of doctors will develop treatment options, which may include surgery, chemo, immunotherapy, other medications, radiation treatment or even “watchful waiting.” For less common cancers, you may be referred to a cancer research study or enrolled in a clinical trial.

The more you know, the more you may feel empowered to take steps to prevent and overcome cancer. There are so many types of cancer. Some are very rare.

Here are common cancers in the United States with estimated numbers of cases for 2021:

Can You Become Cancer-Free Through Remission?

Can You Be Cancer-Free? Defining Detection and Remission - Ezra (1)

During and after cancer treatment, your oncologist will order tests to measure the treatment plan’s effectiveness and see if that cancer has spread. If treatment is successful, you may eventually hear the word “remission.”

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) defines complete remission as “all signs and symptoms of cancer have disappeared, although cancer still may be in the body.”

Partial remission means there are fewer signs of cancer. According to the NCI, someone is a cancer survivor “from the time of diagnosis until the end of life” — so everyone, regardless of remission status, is a cancer survivor.

Early Detection and Follow-Up Care

Cancer care doesn’t end when cancer treatment finishes. As your healthcare team continues to monitor for cancer recurrence, they may need to manage side effects of your treatments and watch for any other health conditions.

This follow-up care may include examinations, testing, and possibly referrals to other specialties, such as a reconstructive surgery (this is common after many types of cancer surgeries).

You should also plan for regular, preventative screenings for new cancer and for cancer recurrence, including CT or MRI scans.

The Importance of Cancer Screenings

The best way to beat cancer is to detect it early, making regular screenings important for everyone — especially for people with higher risk factors.

Some types of cancer may go undetected for months or years before symptoms appear. The U.S. Preventive Task Force provides guidance on cancer screening by age and gender.

Screening guidelines are designed to catch cancer at an early stage when it is easier to treat.

  • Breast cancer: Mammogram starting at age 35 for women with average risk. Ezra mammograms are insurance-covered for women aged 40 or over (who have insurance), or $325 for self-pay. Plus, your 3D mammogram will take only 20 minutes, and your results will be available in just 48 hours.
  • Cervical cancer: Cervical screening with Pap test and HPV test for women who have not had hysterectomies and are ages 21-65. HPV vaccinations should also be given in two doses in children aged 9 to 14.
  • Lung cancer: Low-dose CT scan for current smokers and many former smokers with a 20-pack year smoking history, ages 50-80.
  • Colorectal cancer: Stool-based screenings ages 50-75. Abnormal results referred for a follow-up colonoscopy.
  • Prostate cancer: Elective PSA testing starts at ages 55-69, or at age 45 if you are a male, African American, or have a family history of prostate cancer.

Ezra physicians at our New York locations now can offer a prostate MRI with IV contrast to men with elevated PSA levels or urinary symptoms.

If you have a family history of cancer or are concerned you may be at risk of developing cancer early, discuss early screenings with your healthcare provider. However, you don’t need to be at risk for any specific cancer to start routine screenings with ezra. We believe all individuals should take charge of their health with annual cancer screenings.

Risk Factors

Cancer can develop from environmental and lifestyle causes. For example, exposure to substances like tobacco smoke and ultraviolet rays can contribute to cancer.

However, actions like vaccinating against certain viruses, making healthy lifestyle choices, and getting regular screens can reduce the risk of certain cancers.

Some cancers are influenced by genetics. The NCI says that “inherited genetic mutations play a major role in about 5 to 10 percent of all cancers.”

While we believe screenings should be part of routine healthcare, regular screens are even more important for high-risk individuals.

The American Cancer Society also offers guidance on healthy living. This reminds us that our lifestyle choices of diet, exercise, and other habits affect our health and well-being.

1. Age

According to the NCI, “the median age of a cancer diagnosis is 66.” However, developing cancer is not a certainty for any age. Reduce your exposure to other risk factors and follow cancer screening guidelines for your age group. For breast cancer, screenings are particularly recommended for 50 to 75-year-old women.

2. Ultraviolet Radiation

Exposure to UV rays from sunlight, tanning beds, and reflections of those rays from glass, sand, or water may contribute to skin cancer. People can develop skin cancer from prolonged exposure to UV rays.

3. Tobacco

Tobacco products (cigarettes, cigars, vapes, e-cigs, and smokeless tobacco) contain chemicals that are hazardous to your health and may cause cancer. What’s more, when smoked, tobacco releases thousands of chemicals.

According to the American Lung Association, “69 of these chemicals are known to cause cancer.” The CDC offers programs designed to help you quit tobacco use. To get started right away, text QUIT to 47848.

It’s recommended that people who are at a high risk of lung cancer get regular low-dose CT scans.

4. Obesity

Obesity is a risk factor for many diseases, including many types of cancer. According to the NIH, you are considered obese if you have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 and above.

5. Exposure to Carcinogenic Substances

A carcinogen is a substance that promotes the formation of cancer.

Occupational exposure to carcinogens is of particular concern to the U.S. government and is monitored through the Department of Labor under the guidance of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA).

Workplace exposure to these cancer-causing materials may create a greater risk than public exposure to the same materials. Material safety data sheets (MSDS) are on file for potentially hazardous materials and show potential occupational carcinogens.

6. Radiation

We are all exposed to radiation in our everyday life, and that exposure is cumulative. This means the amount of radiation builds in your body over time.

We’ve already talked about exposure to radiation from the sun. Other types of ionizing radiation that may increase your risk of developing cancer include:

  • X-rays
  • Gamma rays

7. Infections

While cancer isn’t contagious, at least seven viruses may cause cancer. Other microbial diseases can cause inflammation that may lead to cancer. Advances in immunology have led to the development of vaccines to prevent some types of cancer, such as HPV and Hepatitis C.

Make ezra Scans as Part of Your Annual Routine

Whether you are a cancer survivor or have never had diagnosed cancer, you can act to be cancer-free. Awareness of all cancer types, risk factors, preventive medicine, screenings, and positive lifestyle choices are an excellent start.

For instance, the American Cancer Society offers guidance on healthy living. This reminds us that our lifestyle choices of diet, exercise, and other habits affect our health and well-being and are a crucial part of staying cancer-free.

As a preventative measure, we invite you to book an annual ezra scan, designed to screen for potential cancer and pre-cancer warning signs in most major organs.

Ezra offers state-of-the-art scan services like a low dose CT scan and MRIs like the Full Body and Full Body Plus.

Can You Be Cancer-Free? Defining Detection and Remission - Ezra (2024)


Can you completely be free of cancer? ›

In a complete remission, all symptoms and signs of cancer go away and there's no detectable cancer in the body—based on scans, blood work and/or other tests, such as a biopsy. If you are considered in complete remission for more than five years, some doctors may say that you are cured.

Are you cancer free if you are in remission? ›

Remission can be partial or complete. In a complete remission, all signs and symptoms of cancer have disappeared. If you remain in complete remission for 5 years or more, some doctors may say that you are cured. Still, some cancer cells can remain in your body for many years after treatment.

Can you be in remission and still have cancer? ›

The term “remission” means that cancer treatment reduced or eliminated the symptoms and signs of cancer. Remission may last for months, years or the rest of your life. Remission may not mean you're free of cancer (cured), but it's an important turning point for you and your cancer care team.

What is the criteria for remission for cancer? ›

To qualify as remission, your tumor either doesn't grow back or stays the same size for a month after you finish treatments. A complete remission means no signs of the disease show up on any tests. That doesn't mean your cancer is gone forever. You can still have cancer cells somewhere in your body.

What percentage of cancers return after remission? ›

Related Articles
Cancer TypeRecurrence Rate
Leukemia, childhood ALL2015% to 20%
Leukemia, childhood AML159% to 29%, depending on risk
Lymphoma, DLBCL830% to 40%
Lymphoma, PTCL975%
15 more rows
Nov 30, 2018

Has anyone survived cancer without treatment? ›

By the time the cancer has reached the attention of doctors, unaided recovery is highly unlikely: overall, just one in 100,000 cancer patients are thought to shed the disease without treatment. Within those scant reports, though, there are some truly incredible stories.

Which cancer has highest recurrence rate? ›

Which cancer has the highest recurrence rate? Cancers with the highest recurrence rates include: Glioblastoma, the most common type of brain cancer, has a near 100 percent recurrence rate, according to a study published in the Journal of Neuro-Oncology. But it's important to know that glioblastoma is very rare.

Does clear margins mean cancer free? ›

Clean lumpectomy margins mean that no cancer cells can be seen in the outer edge of the removed tissue. The pathology report may also say how wide the clear margin is along with the distance between the outer edge of the surrounding tissue removed and the edge of the cancer. No additional surgery is usually needed.

Is dormant cancer the same as remission? ›

There are several theories as to why cancers recur following a period of remission. It's thought that even though cancer appears to be "gone," some cancer cells may remain after treatment in a state of dormancy (cancer stem cells,) which persist until conditions are right for the cells to begin growing again.

When is cancer no longer in remission? ›

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.” A cancer can recur in the same place it was originally diagnosed, or it can recur in a different part of the body.

When do you start counting cancer free? ›

The cancer may come back to the same place as the original primary tumor or to another place in the body. If you remain in complete remission for five years or more, some doctors may say that you are cured, or cancer-free.

Do you still need chemo if cancer is in remission? ›

Whether or not you have treatment during remission, you'll be watched closely to make sure your cancer doesn't become active again. The most common type of treatment during remission is maintenance chemotherapy.

What is the criteria for complete remission? ›

In AML, complete remission (CR) is traditionally defined by < 5 % blasts, absolute neutrophil count (ANC) < 1000/µL and platelets (plt) > 100000/µL in adult and > 80000/µL in pediatric AML (Cheson et al. 2003). This largely morphologically based definition has remained unchanged for more than two decades.

What is considered full remission? ›

Remission in the DSM-5

According to the DSM-5, a diagnosis of full remission of depression requires you to go at least 2 months with no significant symptoms of depression. Partial remission is classified in the DSM-5 as having some symptoms of major depression present but no longer meeting the full criteria for MDD.

Can you live with cancer forever? ›

Some people have cancer that can be controlled with treatment and they can live for a long time. If treatment stops working, the hope may change again. It may be hope for time to prepare family and loved ones who will be left behind, for telling them what they have meant to you and what you hope for their futures.

What kind of cancer is not curable? ›

Jump to:
  • Pancreatic cancer.
  • Mesothelioma.
  • Gallbladder cancer.
  • Esophageal cancer.
  • Liver and intrahepatic bile duct cancer.
  • Lung and bronchial cancer.
  • Pleural cancer.
  • Acute monocytic leukemia.
Sep 21, 2022

Has anyone ever survived Stage 4 cancer? ›

This was nearly 10 years ago. Looking forward, in April 2022, Ed was declared to have “no evidence of disease” and remains so to this day. After surviving stage 4 Lung Cancer, Ed is determined to help others, so he has become an advocate, leading efforts to improve the lives of people diagnosed with lung cancer.

Is cancer becoming more survivable? ›

Five-year survival rates have also been increasing for an even longer period of time. The overall cancer survival rate was 49 percent in the mid-1970s. It currently sits at 68 percent.


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