Shannen Doherty Shares the Painful Symptom That Signaled Her Stage 4 Breast Cancer Recurrence

Photo credit: Jon Kopaloff - Getty Images
Photo credit: Jon Kopaloff – Getty Images

From Prevention

  • Shannen Doherty gave a health update amid her stage 4 breast cancer battle.

  • The Beverly Hills 90210 star discovered her breast cancer had returned after experiencing sharp back pains.

  • Doherty said she still feels healthy and “has a lot of life” left to live.

Shannen Doherty is opening up about her health amid her ongoing battle with stage 4 breast cancer. In a new interview with ELLE, the Beverly Hills 90210 star, who was initially diagnosed with the disease in 2015, revealed the symptoms that led to the discovery of her cancer’s recurrence.

In February 2020, she announced that her cancer had returned at stage 4, meaning it spread beyond her breasts and lymph nodes. “It’s a bitter pill to swallow in a lot of ways,” Doherty told Good Morning America at the time. The year prior, she was experiencing sharp pack pain, which hurt more than the aches she’d endure after exercise or simply raking her yard.

“It was no longer, ‘I worked out, and I’m a little sore.’ It was like, ‘God, this hurts!’” she told ELLE. Sudden severe pain or the inability to move, pain in the back or neck, numbness or weakness, fatigue, weakness, loss of appetite, and nausea can all be signs that breast cancer has recurred and spread to the bones.

After undergoing a PET scan, Doherty’s doctor confirmed the cancer had come back and traveled to her spine, even after her intense trajectory of treatments. Following her initial diagnosis in 2015, she received hormone therapy and had a single mastectomy, followed by chemotherapy and radiation.

Because her cancer is considered terminal and is now likely to spread to her liver, lungs, and brain, ELLE reports that Doherty will probably continue to receive treatment for the rest of her life.

The 49-year-old often wondered why this was happening to her. “I was like, ‘OK, do I have good karma? Do I have bad karma? Why would I have bad karma?’ I started taking stock of my life and the things I’d done, and the things I hadn’t done. How I was with people,” she told the outlet.

But over time, she’s come to accept that her diagnosis is not something she could have changed. “At the end of that, what I came out with was, I have good karma. It may not seem like it, but I’ve been a really good human being,” she said.

According to the American Cancer Association, stage 4 breast cancer has a 5-year survival rate of 27%. Doherty still plans to beat those odds and live a fulfilling life. She’s currently working on a new television show and advocating for breast cancer research.

She also plans to write letters to her loved ones to show how much they mean to her. “That’s something I need to do. There are things I need to say to my mom. I want my husband to know what he’s meant to me,” she said, while holding back tears. “But whenever it comes time for me to do it, it feels so final. It feels like you’re signing off, and I’m not signing off. I feel like I’m a very, very healthy human being. It’s hard to wrap up your affairs when you feel like you’re going to live another 10 or 15 years.”

“It’s like anybody with stage 4 faces this sort of thing, where others want to put you out to pasture,” Doherty added. “I’m not ready for pasture. I’ve got a lot of life in me.”

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