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When is cancer considered a chronic illness?

Cancer is almost always considered a chronic illness. In this video, palliative medicine specialist Dr. Stewart Fleishman explains why.


Dennis L. Citrin, MD
Hematology & Oncology

My specialty is treating patients with breast cancer—for patients with early stage breast cancer, we treat cancer with the hope of a cure. For patients whose breast cancer has spread throughout the body, the approach is to manage the disease like a chronic illness. If we cannot hope to kill every cancer cell, we focus our efforts on controlling the cancer. I tell my patients that this can be compared to controlling diabetes, where treatment is designed to keep the disease from taking a person's life and to keep him/her symptom free with a high quality of life. Similarly, while metastatic breast cancer may not be totally eliminated, the goal of treatment is to turn it into a chronic illness, to control the cancer, to keep it from growing and from harming the individual.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.