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Shannen Doherty ‘Hope I Can Squeeze Out Another 3-5 Years’ of Life After Stage 4 Cancer

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month– a month-long campaign every year to raise awareness for this tragic and often fatal disease. It appears the campaign has a potential spokesperson to encourage women to get screened and take care of themselves. Shannen Doherty is an actress and producer who became a household name in the 1990s for her roles in Beverly Hills 90210 and Charmed. She can now add breast cancer awareness advocate as she opens up about her ongoing battle with stage 4 breast cancer. 


Cancer, Not Karma

Shannen Doherty is only 49-years-old, considerably young for breast cancer diagnosis, much less stage-4 metastatic cancer, which is most life-threatening. Most women are diagnosed over the age of 50. (1) A diagnosis at such a young age brought many questions and doubts. When Doherty first learned of her recurrence, she was concerned. “I was like, ‘OK, do I have good karma? Do I have bad karma? Why would I have bad karma?’ I started taking stock of my life and the things I’d done, and the things I hadn’t done. How I was with people.” (2)

Doherty’s thoughts are not uncommon. Experts still approach cancer from a genetic standpoint. They claim that we basically inherit our disposition for disease and illness from our parents and they from theirs. (3) But when patients don’t have any family history of related illnesses, they question what they did wrong. And possibly question if they are somehow being punished.

Dr. Judith Stern from the University of California, Davis said “genetics loads the gun but the environment pulls the trigger.” There is definitely a relationship between human disease and the environment, and research should reflect that if we are to make progress against this silent killer. (4) Cures or strategies for dealing with cancer, particularly progressed stages, are as challenging today as they were when research started, over 40 years ago. (3)

It isn’t whether we are lucky or unlucky. It certainly isn’t karma. This is cancer. And approaching it with as much education and resources as possible is our best defense. Doherty eventually saw this aspect. “At the end of that, what I came out with was, I have good karma,” she shared after coming to terms with her diagnosis. “I’ve been a really good human being.” (2)

Shannen Doherty Gets Personal 

By sharing her personal battle, Doherty hopes to do her part to turn the tide on statistics around breast cancer. Experiencing sudden and sharp pain in the neck or back, the inability to move, exhaustion and fatigue, loss of appetite, and nausea are warning signs to get checked out. Breast cancer doesn’t necessarily stay in the breasts, and these symptoms may warn us it is spreading to the bones. Doherty knew it was more than aches associated with exercise or working in her yard. (2)

Diagnosed in 2015 with breast cancer, Doherty received a single mastectomy and hormone therapy. She also fought it with chemotherapy and radiation. Oncologists urge those with cancer diagnoses, even stage 4, to practice self-care in terms of nutrition, exercise, and mental health. Family and professional support are important for not just surviving, but thriving during a battle with cancer. (5)

After her PET scan indicated her cancer had returned after a four-year remission, Doherty gathered her family and friends to prepare them and answer questions. But she is determined. Yes, cancer traveled down her spine, and it will likely spread to other organs, including her lungs and brain. And yes, she needs aggressive treatments for the rest of her life. (5) “I’m not signing off,” the actress assures her fans. “I’ve got a lot of life in me.” (2)

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