Shannen Doherty revealed her battle with breast cancer took a turn for the worse as the cancer has spread to her bones. She opened up about her cancer battle, and how she’s going to keep up the fight in a November 2023 interview with People.
The news came about five months after she revealed that the disease had spread to her brain. In a heartbreaking clip shared to her Instagram in June 2023, the Beverly Hills 90210 actress showed herself undergoing radiation treatment after announcing that her “CT scan showed Mets [metastasis]” around her cerebrum. She also noted that the first round of radiation for the brain cancer took place on January 12.
Shannen followed up that video with another Instagram video on June 14. In the January 2023 clip, she was sitting in her hospital bed while getting ready to have a tumor removed from her head. She was wearing a surgical cap and mask and answering questions by the hospital staff.
“January 16, 2023. Surgery. I had a tum or in my head they wanted to remove and also biopsy. I am clearly trying to be brave but I am petrified,” Shannen wrote in the caption of the post. “The fear was overwhelming to me. Scared of all possible bad outcomes, worried about leaving my mom and how that would impact her. Worried that I would come out of surgery not me anymore. This is what cancer can look like.”
As fans know, the two posts were more examples of Shannen being extremely open about her health struggles, something she has previously referred to as her duty. “I feel like I have a responsibility in my more public life, which I separate from my acting life … to talk about cancer and perhaps educate people more and let people know that people with stage IV are very much alive and very active,” she said in September 2021, per US Weekly.
The heartbreaking news comes as Shannen continues to put on the bravest of faces during these difficult times, which include a divorce from her husband of 11 years. Still, she’s occasionally shared updates with her fans on social media and other appearances in recent months. While fans continue to send their well wishes to the beloved star, learn more about her health struggle, below.
Shannen Doherty Diagnosed With Cancer
In 2015, Shannen was first diagnosed with breast cancer. “There was a lump, and I had a mammogram and then a biopsy,” Doherty recalled to Health Magazine in February 2019. “When I got the results, I was in the car with my mom and I just knew. The longer I sat, the more it started sinking in. Then I started crying. I called my husband and told him. And from there, I just put together a team.”
The actress has also claimed that her dog, Bowie, was the first to detect that something was amiss. “She would obsessively sniff right here on my right side for a long time before,” Shannen told ET in 2016. “So, it made sense when I got diagnosed.”
After eight rounds of chemotherapy, Shannen underwent a single masectomy in May 2015. “When I got back from surgery, [Bowie] again was kind of right in this area,” she explained to ET. “Then when I had my first chemo, she would sniff my entire body up and down. And she was always protective before, but she has become this crazy, protective dog.”
In 2018, she spoke of her remission with caution. “There’s a little bit of fear and apprehension. I felt lost for a second. I was like, ‘Now what?’” she said on Good Morning America. “But then it sort of starts seeping in and then you get joyous and you get so excited but then you got to wait for that five-year mark and that 10-year mark — so remission is a crazy word to me.”
The actress continued her treatments, but in February 2020, more bad news arrived: her cancer had returned and progressed to stage IV. “A lot of people who get diagnosed with Stage IV, they sort of get written off,” she said at the time. “It’s assumed that they cannot work or they can’t work at their full capacity, and that is not true. That is something that I would really like for people to stop assuming and give us a chance to prove them wrong.”
What Is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is a disease in which abnormal cells in the breast divide out of control and are able to invade other tissues, according to the Center for Disease Control. Breast cancer can spread outside the breast through blood vessels and lymph vessels. When breast cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it is said to have metastasized, much like Shannen’s did.
As for treatment, most patients undergo surgery for breast cancer and also receive additional treatment such as chemotherapy, hormone therapy or radiation, per the Mayo Clinic.
How Long Has Shannen Doherty Been Sick?
As noted, Shannen first became diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015. She battled it courageously, even when it came back in 2020 and she had to fight it while filming the reboot for Beverly Hills 90210. “I don’t think that I’ve processed it, it’s a bitter pill to swallow,” she said in February 2020. “There are days when I say…why me? But then I go…well, why not me? Who else besides me deserves this? None of us do.”
She even kept a brave face when she had to shave her head due to her hair loss from the radiation therapy. “I remember I got in the shower to wash my hair, and it just started coming out in clumps,” Shannen had recalled to Health. “I started screaming for my mom. I think that was harder than the surgeries. It was like, ‘Oh my God, this is real.’ Right away, I made the decision to shave my head. My friend came over, and she shaved it. We laughed, and we cried.”
Now with the news of her cancer spreading to her brain, Shannen’s battle will continue. In the Instagram video of her first treatment for the new diagnosis, Shannen wrote “My fear is obvious. But that fear…. The turmoil….. the timing of it all…. This is what cancer can look like.”
How Is Shannen Doherty Doing Today?
Although the news of the cancer spreading to her brain is heartbreaking, Shannen appears to be keeping a positive outlook, like she has in the past during her battle. She’s even spoken out on the diagnosis’ silver lining a few times. “I think it made me a better actor,” she had revealed on GMA. “I also think it made me a better human being. It takes down all your walls, all your barriers, everything that life sort of threw at you … You’re guarding yourself, so yeah, that all comes tumbling down.”
She’s also not ready to say goodbye to her loved ones. “I haven’t sat down to write letters. That’s something I need to do,” the actress told Elle in September 2020. “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.”
Shannen got choked up while reuniting with the cast of Beverly Hills, 90210 at 90s Con in September 2023. She cried as fans cheered for her and gave her a standing ovation. “I have a fight for my life, that I deal with every day. I think I am really great,” she said.
In October, she detailed what a “hard day” looks like for her on Instagram. “Obvious reasons and not so obvious reasons. But everyday I pick myself up and hope that I do better. That people do better. That what’s obvious is not so convoluted,” she wrote. “While I send myself love and peace, I also send love to every single one of you. Even those that have threatened me in the last week.”
Sarah Michelle Gellar opened up about how Shannen’s been doing amid her cancer battle in an interview with Access Hollywood on October 24, 2023. “She’s incredible. When they say ‘a warrior,’ she is a warrior,” she said. “She lives every day, and she’s fighting, and there’s ups and downs. There are days that are harder than others, and there are some days that are easy. She’s doing great.”
Most recently, Shannen revealed that her cancer had spread to her bones in the above-mentioned People story. Despite the battle, the actress has maintained a positive outlook, revealing that she is ready to keep up the fight. “I don’t want to die,” she said. “I’m not done with living. 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.”