Shannen Doherty says her stage 4 cancer diagnosis means her work is 'even more fulfilling' now: 'I'm going to keep fighting to stay alive'

Shannen Doherty says her stage 4 cancer diagnosis means her work is 'even more fulfilling' now: 'I'm going to keep fighting to stay alive'
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Shannen Doherty starred in the show "Beverly Hills, 90210" in the 1990s. Jerod Harris / Stringer/ Getty Images
  • Shannen Doherty said that having stage 4 cancer doesn't mean you can't work at your full capacity.

  • She's been filming two movies while on her first treatment protocol, she said on "Nightline."

  • Stage 4 cancer is considered incurable, but advancing treatments are making it more manageable.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Shannen Doherty is busting misperceptions about stage 4 cancer by living and working fully with the disease.

Doherty, 50, of "Beverly Hills, 90210" fame, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015. She announced that she was in remission in 2017.

Last year, she revealed she had stage 4 breast cancer but had kept it a secret while filming the "90210" reboot.

Recently, on ABC News' "Nightline," she said the diagnosis hadn't slowed her down in her acting career. She has two Lifetime movies debuting this month, "Dying to Belong" and "List of a Lifetime."

"I think work was always very fulfilling to me, but in a way it's become even more fulfilling," Doherty told ABC's Juju Chang.

"A lot of people who get diagnosed with stage 4, they sort of get written off," she said. "It's assumed that they cannot work or they can't work at their full capacity. And that is not true. And that is something that I would really like for people to sort of stop assuming and give us a chance to prove them wrong."

Stage 4 breast cancer is considered incurable

Stage 4, the most advanced stage of breast cancer, means the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the lymph nodes, bones, and, in some cases, organs like the lungs, liver, or brain.

While such cancers are considered incurable, increasingly advanced treatments are helping people live longer and improve their symptoms. The American Cancer Society says the five-year survival rate for stage 4 breast cancer is 28%.

Treating a recurring cancer is also different from treating the disease for the first time, since cancer can become resistant to chemotherapy, and doubling up on treatments can worsen long-term side effects like nerve damage.

On "Nightline," Doherty said she was still on her "first protocol," or treatment plan, describing it as "a very, very, very big thing."

"So it's kind of like, you just want to last on your protocols as long as possible so that you don't run out of protocols," she said.

It's unclear what her protocol involves, but she said it was allowing her to live in the moment rather than checking off bucket-list items, a concept she's said she doesn't believe in.

"I like to say that those are goals," she told Chang, adding, "I just want to operate as I don't have things to check off, because I'm going to keep fighting to stay alive."

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