The Actress Gets Candid About Her Breast Cancer

You’ve in all probability observed Shannen Doherty’s most latest posts about her breast cancer. The actress has never ever shied away from telling it like it is. Taken throughout her six-12 months breast cancer journey, Doherty exhibits herself in bed, bald, and with a bleeding nose.

“Is it really? NO but it is truthful and my hope in sharing is that we all come to be much more educated, much more common with what cancer appears like,” she wrote on Instagram.

Doherty, now 50, has stage IV breast cancer. In the six yrs considering that her 2015 diagnosis, she’s been unflinchingly trustworthy about her cancer. And although the stark photographs may have upset some of her supporters, they convey to an vital tale.

“It can be an impression that exhibits us that women diagnosed with breast cancer … may possibly have fantastic days and undesirable days,” states Erin Roesch, MD, a breast healthcare oncologist at the Cleveland Clinic who was not concerned in Doherty’s treatment method.

It may possibly be blunter than we’re used to looking at from a star. But by showing each the fantastic and the undesirable, Doherty opens a window on the fact guiding the pink ribbons. Breast cancer treatment method has occur a prolonged way. You may possibly dwell for a longer time and better than women who experienced the ailment just before you. But it’s nevertheless genuinely tough.

Cancer Expose

Doherty initial uncovered her diagnosis in 2015. It was invasive breast cancer, which means that it experienced absent further than its starting point. But it hadn’t absent far. It experienced unfold to a single lymph node.

She experienced medical procedures to remove that breast (a solitary mastectomy).

Surgical procedures is a vital part of breast cancer treatment method, Roesch states. In some cases a lumpectomy — medical procedures to remove the tumor but maintain the relaxation of the breast — is an option. But “If the breast cancer is much more comprehensive, a female has smaller sized breasts, or it is her motivation, a mastectomy is yet another surgical option,” she states.

Doherty adopted up medical procedures with chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Radiation lowers the odds that the cancer will return in the breast or lymph node. Chemotherapy will get rid of any microscopic cancer cells “so that they do not vacation anywhere else and established up store,” Roesch states.

Falling Out in Clumps

In the course of her chemo treatment method in 2016, Doherty uncovered that she’d tried cold capping to steer clear of losing her hair.

“When the cap is in place, the blood vessels in the scalp constrict, and this decreases the blood flow to hair follicles,” Roesch explains.

Narrowing the blood vessels decreases the total of chemotherapy medication that can get into and damage cells in the hair follicles. But cold capping will work better with some chemotherapy medication than other individuals, Roesch states.

The treatment method didn’t enable Doherty.

“My hair was slipping out in clumps when I washed it, I experienced bald spots and it became progressively more challenging to address those up. I lastly made a determination to shave what was left of my hair,” she wrote.

The loss of her signature dim locks hit her tough. “I beloved my hair. It experienced outlined me to a certain extent and delivered me with a protection blanket of sorts.”


Doherty completed her therapies in February 2017. Two months later on, she posted that she was in remission.

“I listened to that word and have no plan how to respond,” she shared on Instagram. “Fantastic news? Yes. Too much to handle? Yes.” She was also blunt about the hazard of it coming back. “The up coming five yrs is [sic] very important. Reoccurrences come about all the time.”

She also outlined the have to have to make a determination about “getting a tablet for the up coming five yrs that will come with its personal established of difficulties and facet consequences.”

Doherty was likely referring to anti-estrogen medication like tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors, which doctors from time to time prescribe for women with hormone-positive breast cancer. These hormone-blocking medication are linked to a “sizeable reduction in breast cancer recurrence and demise,” states Vered Stearns, MD, a professor of oncology at Johns Hopkins. She wasn’t concerned in Doherty’s treatment.

“At the exact time, many women, in specific young women who may possibly also have been given chemotherapy, report regular bothersome facet consequences these as sizzling flashes. In these situations, we attempt to give interventions to cut down the stress of facet consequences,” Stearns states.

It can be not apparent irrespective of whether Doherty ever took a single of these medications.

‘A Bitter Tablet to Swallow’

In February 2020, Doherty introduced that her cancer experienced returned, and it was stage IV — the most sophisticated of the levels of cancer.

“I do not imagine I have processed it. It can be a bitter tablet to swallow in a whole lot of techniques,” she told ABC News’s Amy Robach, who is herself a breast cancer survivor.

At stage IV, the cancer has unfold further than the breast and close by lymph nodes to other elements of the system.

“In that circumstance, the breast cancer is no for a longer time curable. Nevertheless, I advise my people that it is definitely pretty treatable,” Roesch states.

New therapies have served women dwell for a longer time with metastatic breast cancer. They can continue to be on treatment method for many yrs and “have a pretty fantastic quality of lifetime,” Roesch states.

Get Checked

Doherty states she’s relied on humor to get her by means of “what appeared unattainable.” And she’s used her social media system (she has practically two million followers) to urge other individuals to be vigilant about their breast health and fitness.

“I hope I persuade persons to get mammograms, to get typical checkups, to slice thru the worry and facial area no matter what may be in entrance of you,” she wrote.

“I like this information,” Roesch states. “Mammography has been revealed by means of demanding studies to increase mortality, so it is a pretty powerful screening tool. We can capture many of these cancers at an early stage and address them for a remedy.”

Doherty’s other vital information is that, irrespective of her diagnosis, she’s retained operating and stayed active. “Heading someplace to do some thing,” was the information she posted in early September, together with a image of herself and her mom, Rosa, in a car or truck.

“Women can dwell pretty whole life with this diagnosis,” Roesch states. “You may be on some form of treatment method for your lifetime, but you can nevertheless enjoy your lifetime.”