What Is Maintenance Therapy?

Some cancers are not curable but can be held in check with maintenance therapy. This usually consists of lower-dose medication taken indefinitely that

• slows down or stops the growth of the cancer

• is fairly well tolerated

The goals of maintenance therapy are to

•preserve a disease-free state (help prevent recurrence) after remission is achieved

•help prevent progression of persistent cancer when curative therapy is not available

•help prevent progression of persistent cancer and minimize complications from persistent cancer when curative therapy is too risky

• buy time while waiting for more effective or less toxic therapy

• promote physical and psychological comfort

What Is Remission?

Remission is the absence of any detectable sign of your cancer after restaging tests are completed. “Remission” is used synonymously with “complete remission.”

Remission is not the same as cure. Your remission can last for one month, one year, one decade, or the rest of your life. You must remain in complete remission for a length of time specific for your type of cancer to be considered cured. Many people achieve complete remission but are not cured.

What Is a Durable Remission?

A durable remission is one that lasts for a long time. How long “long” is depends on the usual expectations for your type of cancer and is a subjective notion. A durable remission is not the same as a cure.

For example, if you have a type of cancer that usually recurs within five years of achieving remission and you have been in remission for eight years, you are deemed to have a durable remission. If your type of cancer usually recurs within one year of remission and you enjoy three years of remission, this is felt to represent a durable remission.


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