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Shannen Doherty's cancer battle: From initial diagnosis to heartbreaking funeral plans

The Charmed alum was first diagnosed in 2015

shannen doherty cancer
Jenni McKnight
US Lifestyle Editor
12 April 2024
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Shannen Doherty has been putting on a brave face for nine years after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015. 

The Charmed alum has been open about her health battle, revealing she is now living with Stage 4 breast cancer. 

In November 2023, she shared the heartbreaking update that the cancer had spread to her bones – five months after she revealed it had spread to her brain. 

WATCH: Shannen Doherty discusses Stage 4 breast cancer diagnosis

Shannen Doherty's cancer timeline

Following Shannen's initial diagnosis, she decided in 2016 to shave her head after treatment made "huge clumps" of her hair fall out. 

"After my second treatment, my hair was really matted, like in dreadlocks. And I went to try and brush it out, and it just fell out," she told ET. "It was just shedding, and it was driving me crazy."

She continued. "It was just clumps. [My mom] grabbed the kitchen scissors and put it in a ponytail and she just chopped it off. And it was this cute little bob, but it wasn't enough, you know, it was falling out." 

Actress Shannen Doherty arrives at American Cancer Society's Giants of Science Los Angeles Gala on November 5, 2016 in Los Angeles, California© Getty
Shannen was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015

In August 2016, the Beverly Hills, 90210 revealed that the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes and as a result, she had a mastectomy and underwent eight rounds of chemotherapy and radiation. 

In 2017, she went into remission and in May 2018, Shannen had reconstructive surgery for her earlier mastectomy. 

Sadly, sometime in 2019, the cancer returned as metastatic Stage 4 breast cancer, meaning it had spread to other parts of her body beyond the original source of the tumor. 

"I don't think that I've processed it. It's a bitter pill to swallow in a lot of ways," she said on Good Morning America at the time. 

In January 2023, Shannen underwent surgery to remove a brain tumor, and by November of that year, the cancer had spread to her bones. 

Personal journey

shannen doherty cancer© Instagram
Shannen is now living with stage 4 breast cancer that's spread to her bones

In 2021, the actress marked Breast Cancer Awareness month by sharing her "own personal journey from my first diagnosis to my second". 

In an Instagram post, she detailed the side effects of chemotherapy while sharing a photo of her with a bloody nose and shaved head. "I had many nose bleeds from the chemo. Not sure if any of you experienced this," she wrote. 

"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." 

Shannen added: "Finding humor helped get me thru what seemed impossible. I hope we all find humor in the impossible." 

Funeral plans 

Shannen doherty cancer© Instagram
Shannen has specific plans for her funeral

During an episode of her Let's Be Clear podcast in January 2024, Shannen made a heartbreaking admission about what she hopes for her funeral. 

Speaking to her best friend and guest, Chris Cortazzo – who is also the executor of her will – she expressed her desire to keep her funeral free of people she feels don't genuinely care for her.

"There's a lot of people that I think would show up that I don't want there,” she admitted. "I don’t want people to be crying or people to privately be like, ‘Thank God that [expletive] is dead now.'" 

'Miracle' treatment

In her latest podcast, Shannen talked about how she is preparing for death© Instagram
Shannen is on a new fusion treatment plan

Shannen finally received some good news in January 2024 after a new infusion treatment plan she is on yielded some "miracle" results. 

Speaking to her radiation oncologist, Dr. Amin Mirhadi, on her podcast, Shannen revealed that despite a lackluster start, "after the sixth or seventh treatment, we really saw it breaking down the blood-brain barrier". 

"Do I call that a miracle? Yeah. For me, that happens to be a miracle right now," she said. "That I sort of rolled the dice and said, 'Let's keep going.'" 

Screenshot form a video shared by Shannen Doherty on Instagram in June which captures her in the process of her radiation treatment for her breast cancer© Instagram
Shannen had a brain tumor removed in January 2023

She continued: "And that it's actually breaking down that blood-brain barrier is actually a miracle of that drug, a miracle of maybe God intervening and saying, 'I'm gonna give her a break. 

"Sometimes you're looking for miracles in all the wrong places and they're right in front of your face." 

Positive outlook 

shannen doherty miracle cancer update© NBC
Shannen is trying to remain positive

Thanks to the progress in Shannen's treatment, she remains hopeful as she continues her cancer battle. 

"Every day is a gift and there are so many new things in the works that I think hope is always there. I think it's so important," she said on her podcast. 

"Listen, I can die today, I can die in 20 years, I don't know. I can die walking outside of my house and a tree falling on me or a bus hitting me, whatever. Or I can die of cancer. 

Shannen Doherty attends the 9th Annual American Humane Hero Dog Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on October 05, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California© Getty
Shannen believes in hope

"But all I can do is live each day in as much as a positive manner with hope as I can and embrace it and feel like, 'Wow, I get to wake up again today, what can I do?'" 

She added: "I believe that positivity that you bring into your life, I think it helps with your whole body. I think that it helps you fight the cancer. Mind over matter a little bit."

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