After you’re diagnosed with cancer, your doctor will choose treatments that have the best chance of curing your disease. But everyone is different. So how will your doctor track how well your treatment works?
Cancer is often deep inside your body. If it shrinks or grows, you won’t be able to see or feel it. So your doctor will do tests every few months or so during your treatment.
These tests can see where the cancer is in your body and whether it has grown, stayed the same size, or gotten smaller. Based on your test results, your doctor can decide whether to keep you on your current treatment or try something else.
What Does Your Treatment Response Mean?
Your doctor might use one of these words to describe how your cancer acts after treatment.
A partial response or partial remission means your tumor shrank by at least 50%, but it’s still there.
A complete response or complete remission means your cancer can’t be measured on any test. This may — but doesn’t always — mean you’re cured. You can still have cancer that’s too small for tests to find.
Stable means your cancer has stayed the same. It hasn’t gotten worse or better.
Progression means your cancer has grown or spread. You may need to switch treatments to control it.
Tests to Check Your Treatment Response
You’ll see your oncologist, the doctor who treats your cancer, for regular follow-up exams. These visits may continue for many months or years after your treatment ends.
Your doctor will check you at each visit to see if your cancer has come back or spread. You’ll also be monitored for any long-term side effects of your treatment.
A few tests can help your doctor see whether your cancer treatment is working. Some of these tests are the same ones that helped to diagnose your cancer.
Blood tests. These tests check for levels of different substances in your blood — like enzymes or proteins — that cancer cells or your organs release when the tumor grows.