1990s television star Shannen Doherty has revealed that her stage four breast cancer has spread to her brain.
The 90210 alum’s cancer returned in late 2020 and “metastasized,” a situation in which cancer cells multiply and replicate excessively before spreading to other parts of her body — with scans in January showing it had now spread to her brain .
Revealing the diagnosis, Ms. Doherty shared intimate scenes of herself with a cadre of medical professionals preparing for radiation treatments that destroy cancer cells with powerful X-rays to kill them.
In a candid remark, she said, “This is what cancer can look like,” explaining that her extreme claustrophobia made it difficult to get the treatment.
The actress, 52, had a CT scan on January 5 that showed cancer cells had spread from their original site to her brain – what are known as ‘brain metastases’
Radiation: Shannen explained that she underwent her first radiation therapy on Jan. 12 and is still scared despite having a “great” medical team
Shannen Doherty can be seen on the set of 90210 with her co-star Luke Perry
Each year in the US, approximately 264,000 breast cancer cases are diagnosed in women and approximately 2,400 in men. And those rates are rising.
In recent years, incidence rates have increased by 0.5 percent per year, which experts say may be due to an increase in obesity among women in general, as well as a decline in fertility rates and rising ages of women at their first birth .
Brain metastases, or the condition where cancer has spread to the brain, are rare in breast cancer patients from about 10 to 15 percent.
Although the prognosis for people like Mrs. Doherty with breast cancer that has spread to the brain has improved over the past two decades, the overall survival of breast cancer patients with brain metastases is still a little over two years.
Doherty, 52, has a difficult relationship with cancer. She was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, indicating that it had reached stage two or three and had spread to her lymph nodes.
She underwent a mastectomy and when that didn’t fully resolve the problem, she received chemotherapy and radiation until she announced in 2017 that her cancer was in remission.
She announced this on Tuesday in early January undergo a CT scan who had brain metastases.
Ms. Doherty didn’t disclose the specific type of aggressive cancer she was battling, but the risk of brain metastases is highest in people with certain subtypes: HER2-positive or triple-negative breast cancer.
The graph above shows new cases of breast cancer in women as a rate per 100,000 people (light green line) and the death rate (as a dark green line). It shows that the number of deaths is falling very gradually
Patients with HER2+ 9 have a form of cancer in which the HER2 protein (human epidermal growth factor receptor 2) on breast cancer cells is overexpressed or amplified, meaning it makes too many copies of itself and grows, eventually destroying the rest of the skin. healthy tissues of the body.
Triple-negative breast cancer, meanwhile, accounts for fewer breast cancer cases than HER2-positive cancer — 10 to 15 percent versus 20 percent. It refers to the fact that this type of cancer does not have estrogen or progesterone receptors or HER2.
Stage four cancers are often treated with targeted therapies, including certain medications and monoclonal antibodies, as well as chemotherapy. Surgery is also believed to improve survival in some cases.
Radiation therapy, which Mrs. Doherty received, is one of the most common forms of cancer treatment.
Cancer is the result of rogueness. When genes in the trillions of cells in the body work properly, they tell cells when to grow and divide to make exact copies of themselves, usually to repair or replace damaged or aging cells.
But cancer cells contain mutated genes that can develop over time or be passed down through family members. The faulty gene causes the cell to grow and divide uncontrollably until they pile up and form a lump called a tumor, which continues to grow as it draws oxygen and nutrients from nearby blood vessels.
As the tumor grows, cancer cells can spread to surrounding tissues by pressing on healthy tissue surrounding the tumor.
Cancer cells that spread to the brain are unique in that they acquire so many genetic mutations that they can cross the blood-brain barrier, which is an obstacle to many effective cancer treatments, including chemo.
Radiation therapy disrupts the blood-brain barrier, a network of blood vessels and tissue that serves as a protective layer lining the inside of the brain. It protects the brain from toxins.
Radiation, unlike many cancer treatments, can cross that impenetrable blood-brain barrier to treat recurrent cancer and cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.
Breast cancer is one of the cancers most likely to lead to brain metastases that can cause a tumor or tumors in the brain, according to the Mayo Clinic
This type of therapy often uses X-rays, but other types such as proton radiation also exist. The beams are beamed directly at the brain, taking care to hit only a relatively small area so as not to destroy important infection-fighting cells.
When treating breast cancer that has spread to the brain, oncologists will likely use a type of radiation therapy called WBRT (whole brain RT), which consists of 10 to 15 treatments over a few weeks.
While this is the gold standard for treating multiple brain metastases, it can only prolong life by about six months.
Oncologists will custom fit a thermoplastic mask over the patient’s face before starting treatment to keep that part of the body still during the sessions. It starts as a warm, wet gauze on the skin that hardens and cools after about 15 minutes to hold the head in place.
Ms Doherty documented this process in an emotional clip in which she begins to cry as doctors place the mask over her face. Doctors also gave her a bite to make sure it adhered to her mouth and chin.
She said: ‘January 12th the first round of radiation took place. My fear is clear. I am extremely claustrophobic and a lot happened in my life.
“I’m lucky to have great doctors like Dr. Amin Mirahdi and the great technicians at Cedar Sinai. But that fear…. The turmoil….. the timing of it all…. This is what cancer can look like.’