Share on PinterestIn a poignant social media post, the 90210 and Charmed star has disclosed that her cancer has extended to her brain and she’s currently undergoing treatment. Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for Hallmark Channel
- Actress Shannen Doherty has exposed that she has brain cancer.
- Initially diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, she experienced a mastectomy and underwent radiation and chemotherapy.
- In 2017, she declared that she was in remission, but in 2020, she was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer, which has now spread to her brain.
“Beverly Hills, 90210” and “Charmed” actress Shannen Doherty disclosed on June 7 in an emotional Instagram post that her breast cancer has spread to her brain.
“On January 5th, my CT scan revealed [metastases] in my brain,” read the caption of the video, which showed her being fitted for a mask worn during radiation to the brain.
“My fear is evident. I am extremely claustrophobic and there was a lot happening in my life,” wrote Doherty, 52. “I am lucky to have great doctors…. But that fear…. The turmoil….. the timing of it all…. This is what cancer can resemble.”
The first round of radiation took place on January 12, she wrote.
Doherty was initially diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, as reported by NBC News. She underwent a mastectomy and received chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
The actress announced in 2017 that she was in remission but stated in 2020 that she was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer.
One of the challenges of treating breast cancer that has spread to the brain, said Peddi, is that many medications used to treat aggressive cancers don’t cross the blood-brain barrier.
“So if you caught the cancer a little bit on the later side, and a few cancer cells did go to the brain, you’re going to have a difficult time treating them,” she said.
However, Chalasani said certain newer medications are able to cross the blood-brain barrier, which has improved the outlook for people with metastatic brain tumors.
With these newer medications, “we are actually enhancing patients’ quality of life and their lifespan — trying to ensure they can live a long time, but also with good quality,” she said.
Jacoub said other treatment options are available for brain metastases, such as neurosurgery to remove the tumors, which is typically followed by radiation therapy.
Another treatment option, he said, is stereotactic radiosurgery, which uses focused beams of radiation to treat brain tumors without cutting into the brain.
“We have all these interventions,” he said. “Which ones we use depends on many factors — how much of the brain is involved, how early or late in the disease course the patient is, what are the patient’s specific factors, etc.”
The impact of metastatic brain tumors on a person’s daily life depends on many factors, said Jacoub, including how many metastases there are in the brain, how large they are, and where they are located.
Peddi said some of the most common symptoms of metastatic brain tumors are:
But again, a person’s symptoms depend on which parts of the brain are affected.
Chalasani said she has diagnosed patients with possible metastatic brain tumors based on changes in their behavior.
“If the tumor affects the front area of the brain, that can alter the personality,” she said. For example, “a couple of my patients [with a tumor in that area of the brain] developed acute anxiety, which is not how they usually are.”
A person’s long-term outcome also depends on how many metastases are present in the brain and what treatments they receive.
Peddi said breast cancer patients with metastatic brain tumors usually live less than five years. “That’s the average,” she said. “Some patients do better, while some do worse.”
However, Jacoub said with recent improvements in therapies for breast cancer, some cases that were previously difficult now have a better outcome.
“People used to have a prognosis of only a few months after brain metastases,” he said. “Now we see patients living for several years after that.”
The best way to decrease the risk of breast cancer spreading to the brain is to detect and treat the cancer early.
“By the time the cancer cells show up on brain scans, unfortunately, it is too late,” said Peddi. “Even though patients can be treated with some modalities, they cannot be cured at that point.”
She said that’s why “we recommend that you go for your mammogram to catch the breast cancer as early as possible.”
Jacoub agreed: “Whether their breast cancer is caught through screening or caught because a woman feels a lump, the earlier the disease, the lower the chance the cancer is going to come back after treatment.”
Peddi emphasized that surgery is not the end of treatment.
“Depending on the cancer and the stage, you almost always need some medication to go throughout your body to kill the cancer cells that have escaped from the breast,” she said. Ideally, this happens “before they can lodge themselves in an organ that is critical, such as the brain.”