What is "Cure"?

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The medical community uses certain terminology to describe various states of disease along the way toward cure or simply living a long life. It’s helpful to understand some terms that are used at MSK when we talk about the effectiveness of a treatment, the long-term side effects of treatment, or the state of a patient’s disease. There are a number of frequently used terms that may come up as you transition to survivorship.

Remission, Complete Remission (CR), and No Evidence of Disease (NED)

These are terms that indicate that the signs and symptoms of cancer are no longer present. However, it is possible that cancer cells may continue to exist in the body at a level at which current testing methods cannot detect. These terms mean the same thing.

Long-Term and Late Treatment Effects

These are terms that refer to persistent post-treatment side effects, or new side effects that develop months or even years after completing treatment. Careful monitoring for long-term and late effects based on the types of treatment used is an important part of follow-up for Survivorship care. Examples of long-term or late effects include fatigue, lymphedema, insomnia, and changes in memory or concentration.

Recurrence or Relapse

These terms indicate detection of disease after completing treatment. This may be evaluated by radiologic imaging, lab testing, or biopsy. Careful monitoring for signs and symptoms of recurrent disease is an important part of follow-up care.