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  • Writer's pictureThe After Cancer

The differences between cancer-free, in remission and NED (no evidence of disease)

three cancer survivors

What does each term mean?

When it comes to cancer, there are several terms used to describe a person's status after treatment. Understanding the differences between being cancer-free, in remission, and having no evidence of disease (NED) can provide clarity and peace of mind.

Being cancer-free indicates that there are no detectable cancer cells in the body at the time of evaluation. It suggests a successful completion of treatment and a lack of visible signs of the disease. However, it is important to note that cancer-free does not guarantee that cancer will never return.

In-remission refers to a period when the signs and symptoms of cancer have significantly reduced or disappeared following treatment. It indicates that there is no evidence of active disease based on medical assessments. Remission can be partial, where some cancer cells remain, or complete, where no cancer cells are detectable. Regular follow-up is required to monitor any potential recurrence.

NED is another term used to describe a patient whose medical tests show no evidence of cancer at that particular time. It implies a lack of detectable cancer cells, but it does not guarantee that cancer will not reappear in the future. NED is often used when the possibility of a recurrence remains low, but continuous monitoring is still necessary.

Am I really cured?

The term "cured" is not commonly used in cancer treatment discussions. It is challenging to definitively state that someone is cured of cancer since it is possible for cancer to recur even after an extended period of remission or being NED. However, the longer the time since treatment completion without any signs of cancer, the less likely a recurrence becomes. Regular medical follow-up is essential to detect any potential recurrence early.

Supportive care for cancer survivors

For cancer survivors, post-treatment care focuses on maintaining overall health, managing side effects of treatment, and monitoring for any signs of recurrence. This may include regular check-ups, imaging tests, blood work, and other evaluations as determined by the healthcare team.

In addition, you may benefit from support services such as counseling, survivorship programs, and support groups that address the physical, emotional, and psychological aspects of life after cancer.

It is crucial for you to communicate openly with your healthcare team, report any concerning symptoms, and stay engaged in your post-treatment care plan. By taking an active role in your health, you can optimize your well-being and continue to live a fulfilling life beyond cancer.

Understanding the differences between being cancer-free, in remission, and having no evidence of disease provides clarity on a survivor's status after treatment. While the terminology may vary, it is important to stay vigilant, prioritize regular follow-up care, and maintain open communication with healthcare providers. By doing so, you can focus on your continued well-being and embrace life beyond cancer.


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