‘I’m Gonna Continue to Do All of It’: Breast Cancer Warrior and Beloved Actress Shannen Doherty Has Filmed Three Movies Back-to-Back This Year

Published Sep 30, 2021

Abigail Seaberg

Metastatic Breast Cancer Doesn't Need to Slow You Down

  • Shannen Doherty is living with metastatic breast cancer, but she’s continuing to make movies and do what she lives amid her cancer battle.
  • “I don’t think there was ever even a thought that I wouldn’t work,” Doherty told Variety. “When you can’t imagine not doing [the things you love], you just go, ‘Well, I’m gonna continue to do all of it!’”
  • Metastatic breast cancer – also called “stage four” breast cancer – means that the cancer has spread, or metastasized, beyond the breasts to other parts of the body. There is technically no cure, but advancements in treatments that can dramatically reduce symptoms is something to be hopeful for.

Shannen Doherty is living with Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer, but she’s not letting that slow her down. And, in the process, she’s showing the world what a stage four cancer warrior can do.

The 50-year-old actor, best known for her roles in Heathers, Charmed and Beverly Hills, 90210, was first diagnosed with breast cancer back in 2015 after finding a lump in her breast. At first, she was treated with hormone therapy, but the this effort turned out to be ineffective as the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes. Then, she underwent a single mastectomy to remove one of her breasts, chemotherapy and radiation. She was into remission until 2019, when she discovered her breast cancer had returned. This time, the cancer had spread to other parts of her body making it a metastatic, or stage four, cancer diagnosis.

But despite an ongoing fight with the disease. Doherty has managed to keep working. In fact, she filmed three movies back to back this year – two for Lifetime that will air in October and one of them that will air in theaters next year.

Dying to Belong will be the first release and is a remake of the 1997 TV movie with Hilary Swank about the dangers of sorority hazing. The second, List of a Lifetime, actually touches upon the topic of breast cancer and the BRCA gene mutation that can increase your risk of the disease. The final film, which will premiere in theaters, is a Bruce Willis action movie called The Fortress.

“I don’t think there was ever even a thought that I wouldn’t work,” Doherty told Variety. “When you can’t imagine not doing [the things you love], you just go, ‘Well, I’m gonna continue to do all of it!’”

And despite the utmost confidence in herself, Doherty said it could be tough to convince employers she could handle the work.

“Stage 4 cancer, it doesn’t mean the end of your life,” she said. “It doesn’t mean that you’re not viable in the workplace. It’s quite the opposite.”

On top of her acting roles, she’s even gotten back into some directing. For special content that would follow the film List of a Lifetime, Doherty got to direct a special clip for Lifetime‘s annual Stop Breast Cancer for Life campaign in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Clearly, she’s more than capable of continuing her work. But, beyond that, Doherty says her cancer has made her an even stronger actor by breaking down the barriers she put up as a young woman.

“I obviously had a lot of walls around me,” she said. “I think there’s a wisdom and a vulnerability, and a deeper understanding of life now than I ever had.”

Understanding Metastatic Breast Cancer

Metastatic breast cancer – also called “stage four” breast cancer – means that the cancer has spread, or metastasized, beyond the breasts to other parts of the body. It most commonly spreads to the bones, liver and lungs, but it may also spread to the brain or other organs.

And while there is technically no cure for metastatic breast cancer, there is a wide variety of treatment options used to battle the disease including hormone therapy, chemotherapy, targeted drugs, immunotherapy and a combination of various treatments.

RELATED: New Hope for Breast Cancer Warriors: ENHERTU Therapy Is A ‘Big Game Changer’ for HER2 Positive Metastatic Breast Cancer Patients

In a previous interview with SurvivorNet, Dr. Elizabeth Comen, an oncologist with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, explained how she tries to management breast cancer when it has progressed to a later stage.

Stage Four Breast Cancer

“With advanced disease, the goal of treatment is to keep you as stable as possible, slow the tumor growth and improve your quality of life,” she said.

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women after lung cancer, but there are so many breast cancer survivors and people living with the disease today. The American Cancer Society reports that there were more than 3.8 million U.S. women with a history of breast cancer alive at the start of 2019. Some of the women were cancer-free, and others still had evidence of the disease, but they also reported that more than 150,000 breast cancer survivors were living with metastatic disease, three-fourths of whom were originally diagnosed with stage I-III. And with ongoing advancements in treatments and options out there today that can dramatically reduce symptoms, there are many reasons to be hopeful.

Living with Cancer

Life doesn’t slow down for a cancer diagnosis, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Like Shannen Doherty explains beautifully, it’s important to remember that a cancer diagnosis – even stage four – does not mean the end of your life. In fact, our experts say that prioritizing your overall wellbeing and continuing to do the things that you love can be very beneficial.

Rules For Living With Cancer

Dr. Geoffrey Oxnard, a thoracic oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, shared three things he tells his lung cancer patients about living with the disease:

  1. Don’t act sick – “You can’t mope around,” he said. “Do things, and in doing things, you will stay active.”
  2. Don’t lose weight – “Eat what you need to do to not lose weight,” he said. “I like my patients pleasantly plump.”
  3. Don’t be a tough guy – “When you’ve got lung cancer, you need work with your doctor to keep your medical conditions under control.”

Learn more about SurvivorNet's rigorous medical review process.


Abigail Seaberg, a recent graduate of the University of Richmond, is a reporter based in Denver. Read More