Actress Shannen Doherty has been on a public cancer journey for eight years now, and she hasn't shied away from sharing her successes and struggles with friends and fans as she fights the disease. The Beverly Hills 90210 alum regularly provides updates on her health on Instagram and on her podcast, Let’s Be Clear with Shannen Doherty.
It’s been a while since the 52-year-old initially revealed that she was diagnosed with breast cancer back in 2015, and a lot has changed since then. She's gone into remission, had surgeries, and then had the cancer return.
Most recently, she shared that the cancer had spread, but that she isn't giving up hope.
She revealed her breast cancer diagnosis in 2015.
Shannen made headlines when she revealed that she had breast cancer back in 2015. At the time, she had sued her former business manager for allegedly "failing to pay her insurance premiums," per CNN. This, Shannen said, prevented her from receiving medical care that she claimed could have helped catch the cancer earlier. The lawsuit claimed that her cancer "had spread during 2014 when she was uninsured due to her ex-manager’s alleged error" and that "if the cancer had been caught earlier, she wouldn’t have had to undergo chemotherapy and a mastectomy," the outlet reported.
In response, her former manager, Tanner Mainstain, released a statement that read: "Tanner Mainstain is saddened to learn that Ms. Doherty is suffering from cancer and wishes her a full recovery... However, the claim that Tanner Mainstain caused her to be uninsured, prevented her from seeking medical care, or somehow contributed to her cancer is patently false," per Entertainment Tonight.
The lawsuit was settled in 2016, but the financial terms were not disclosed.
As a result of TMZ reporting on the initial lawsuit, Shannen was forced to confirm her diagnosis. Still, she told People that she was “continuing to eat right, exercise and stay very positive about my life.”
She underwent a single mastectomy in May 2015 as part of her cancer treatment.
She started documenting her journey.
Soon after her public statement about the cancer, Shannen began sharing updates about her journey on Instagram, telling fans about treatments she was undergoing, as well as how she was feeling on any given day.
In 2016, Shannen shared that the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes.
"I had breast cancer that spread to the lymph nodes, and from one of my surgeries we discovered that some of the cancer cells might have actually gone out of the lymph nodes," she told ET. "So for that reason, we are doing chemo, and then after chemo, I'll do radiation."
Shannen also shared her fears around what was to come.
"The unknown is always the scariest part," she said. "Is the chemo going to work? Is the radiation going to work? You know, am I going to have to go through this again, or am I going to get secondary cancer? Everything else is manageable. Pain is manageable, you know living without a breast is manageable, it's the worry of your future and how your future is going to affect the people that you love."
She went into remission in 2017.
The actress posted a moving photo in an Instagram post on April 28, 2017, talking about how she had finally gone into remission. In the picture, Shannen is sitting on a floor with her head in her hands.
“Moments. They happen. Today was and is a moment. What does remission mean? I heard that word and have no idea how to react. Good news? YES. Overwhelming. YES. Now more waiting,” she wrote in the caption. “As every single one of my fellow cancer family knows, the next five years is crucial. Reoccurrences happen all the time…. So with a heart that is certainly lighter, I wait.”
Shannen had breast reconstruction in 2018.
Two and a half years after her mastectomy, Shannen decided to get her breast reconstructed, and revealed that she spent Mother's Day in the hospital.
“Happy Mother’s Day mom. I only bring you to the best places…..hospital food..yum,” She joked in the caption. “I love you. Thank you for always being there. I’d write more but pain pills are kicking in. @themamarosa #reconstruction.”
In 2020, she revealed her stage 4 breast cancer diagnosis.
Court documents revealed in February 2020 that Shannen's was no longer in remission: She had been re-diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Specifically, the documents, which were obtained by ET, said that Shannen was “dying of stage 4 terminal cancer."
Stage 4 breast cancer diagnoses mean the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, and is also called metastatic breast cancer. It is not curable, but is treatable.
Shannen later went on Good Morning America to talk about her latest diagnosis. "I'd rather people hear it from me," she said. "I don't want it to be twisted; I don't want it to be a court document. I want it to be real and authentic, and I want to control the narrative. I want people to know from me."
In October of 2021, she shared a health update.
Shannen spoke out in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, giving more information about her journey, including a shot of herself with a nosebleed.
"Is it all pretty? NO but it’s truthful and my hope in sharing is that we all become more educated, more familiar with what cancer looks like. I hope I encourage people to get mammograms, to get regular checkups, to cut thru the fear and face whatever might be in front of you,” she wrote in an Instagram post.
"I had many nose bleeds from the chemo,” she continued. “Not sure if any of you experienced this. I also was beyond tired. I cheered myself up by putting on [Cookie Monster] funny pajamas that my friend Kristy gave me. Did they actually cheer me up? Yes!! Lol. I looked ridiculous and in that ridiculousness, I was able to laugh at myself."
In June 2023, Shannen shared the cancer has spread to her brain.
In a video that shows Shannen getting outfitted for a mask to wear while receiving more radiation treatment, the actress shared the news that the cancer was now in her brain.
“My fear is obvious. I am extremely claustrophobic and there was a lot going on in my life,” she wrote in the caption. “I am fortunate as I have great doctors like Dr Amin Mirahdi and the amazing techs at cedar sinai. But that fear…. The turmoil….. the timing of it all…. This is what cancer can look like.”
By November, it had also spread to her bones.
Still, Shannen said she was holding on to hope.
"I’m not done with living," she told People. "I’m not done with loving. I’m not done with creating. I’m not done with hopefully changing things for the better. I’m just not—I’m not done."
How is she doing right now?
Shannen shared at 90s Con in early January that she’s “crying constantly” these days, per Metro. But, on her podcast, Shannen said she's still holding out hope that new treatments could help extend her life.
“I always talk about the fact that we just need to squeeze out another three to five years, and then there’s going to be T-cell therapy or there’s going to be this,” she said. “There’s going to be a lot more options that will give another five years. Then in those five years, there’s a whole other group of options, and eventually, there’s going to be a cure.”
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