Definitions

WHAT IS A PREVIVOR?

A previvor is a high-risk individual who carries an inherited predisposition to cancer but has NOT developed the disease. Many previvors carry the BRCA1 or 2 (or both) genetic mutation. The word has become commonplace in the world of battling breast cancer.

FORCE coined the term “previvor” in 2000. Since then, the term has been adopted by many high-risk women, healthcare providers and researchers, and was named by Time magazine as one of its top 10 buzzwords of 2007.

WHAT IS A SURVIVOR?

According to the National Cancer Institute, a person is considered a survivor on the day that they are diagnosed and throughout the rest of their life.

WHAT IS A CO-SURVIVOR?

Cancer co-survivor can be family members, spouses or partners, friends, health care providers, or colleagues who joins survivors on their journey to battle cancer.

WHAT IS A WARRIOR?

An individual who has been diagnosed with cancer and is actively battling it. The warrior is currently on the front line in the fight to save her/his life against the disease.

WHAT IS A Cancerversary?

How is this date determined? This date can be arbitrary and depends on how a particular person or particular oncologist defines this. Some people celebrate the anniversary of the day they were diagnosed.
Perhaps the most accurate date describing a cancerversary is the date at which definitive treatment for their cancer ended.

Why Do Oncologist’s Rarely Use the Word Cured?

Most cancer survivors fall into the first three categories, as oncologists will rarely use the word “cured” for people with solid tumors, even if a cancer was in the very early stages of the disease. (Learn about why doctors rarely use the word cured.) Your doctor may say you are in remission or that you are NED (no evidence of disease) but with breast cancer the term cured is usually reserved for those with DCIS.

We don’t understand how breast cancer can hide and come back years or even decades later. Yet we know it does—far too often.

Why Can Cancers Recur Years or Decades Later?

Scientists do not have an exact answer to this. Research continues. What they do know is that solid tumors such as breast cancer, can appear to hide for many years and then reappear. One of the theories is that there is a hierarchy of cancer cells, with some of the cells (cancer stem cells) being more resistant to treatment and having the ability to lie dormant. And while many cancers recur in the first 5 years, many of us know of someone who remained cancer free for years and even decades before their cancer returned.

WHAT IS REMISSION,RECURRENCE, PROGRESSION, PARTIAL RESPONSE AND OTHER TERMS?

Recurrence – A cancer that returns (comes back, relapses, or recurs) after a period of time during which a cancer has been remission (usually meaning that there is no evidence of disease (NED) and the cancer is not detected on scans.) While there is not a precise definition of time that must pass during which someone is cancer free and when cancer is considered a recurrence, many oncologists believe that cancers which recur within 3 months are a progression rather than a recurrence.

Progression (Progressive Disease – PD) – Cancer progression refers to a cancer that is worsening and has increased at least 20 percent in size or has spread after treatment.

Partial Response – A partial response to treatment means that a tumor decreases at least 30 percent in size, but does not go away completely as noted on clinical exam or by scans. This is also called partial regression.

Stable Disease/Static Disease – means a tumor is not growing or shrinking significantly. It also means that there are no new tumors and that the tumor has not spread to any new regions of the body. The tumor has not increased enough to be called progressive disease (a 20 percent increase or more) or decreased enough to be called a partial response (at least a 30 percent decrease.)