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In medicine, spontaneous remission is recovery without known reason or cause.[1] Spontaneous remission are usual in many health disorders [2] and are more commonplace than it is generally assumed,[1] principally in young people.[2]


Studies have shown that cases of spontaneous remission that are not reported outnumber those reported by at least 10 to 1[3] and cases related with some disorders have a spontaneous remission rate that appears to be about 1 percent per year.[2]


The mechanisms for spontaneous recovery are active in many health disorders[2] and also seem to occur in debilitating and progressive diseases such as cancer and tuberculosis.[1][4] In some disorders the mechanisms of spontaneous remission may be impaired but can be re-established with the proper therapy.[5]

Even if some placebo effects could be observed or caused by spontaneous remission, the two processes are not one and the same.[6]


The term anecdotal evidence is often mentioned by medical researchers in conjunction with cases of spontaneous remission.[2] It refers to the descriptions of remissions by those who directly experienced the process or by those who observed it.

Spontaneous remission occurs normally as an established body mechanism.[2] In those cases in which a spontaneous remission is not expected or normally occurring, medical professionals might attribute such occurrence to rationally explainable influences that lacked observation, or misdiagnosis.[7]

A published example of unexpected spontaneous remission is that of John Matzke. At 30 years old, he was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in 1974. A chest tumour and lung cancer were found in 1984. Instead of undergoing immediate treatment, he spent one month hiking, meditating, and eating healthfully (to prepare his body for treatment). Surprisingly, upon his next X-ray appointment, the tumour had disappeared. He went on to live another 18 years before the cancer recurred in his brain and took his life on November 8, 1991.[8]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Bakal, Donald A. (2001). Minding the Body: Clinical Uses of Somatic Awareness, p 163, Guilford Publications.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Weatherall, David (2000). Concise Oxford Textbook of Medicine, pp 179,400,437,1031,1067,1084,1345,1390, Oxford University Press.
  3. Lerner, Michael (1996). Choices in Healing: Integrating the Best of Conventional and Complementary Approaches to Cancer, p 184, The MIT Press.
  4. Eugene Braunwald, T.R. Harrison and (2002). Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, p 1027, McGraw-Hill Education.
  5. Donald L. Wise , Debra J. Trantolo , Michael J. Yaszemski , Augustus A. White III, Kai-Uwe Lewandrowski (2003). Advances in Spinal Fusion: Molecular Science, Biomechanics and Clinical Management, pp 619-637, Marcel Dekker Ltd.
  6. Harrington, Anne (1997). The Placebo Effect: An Interdisciplinary Exploration, 49,167, Harvard University Press.
  7. Healing, remission, and miracle cures. Whole Earth Review. Accessed on September 16, 2007.
  8. The Body Can Beat Terminal Cancer — Sometimes. Discover Magazine. Accessed on September 16, 2007.
  • Eysenck HJ. (1980). A unified theory of psychotherapy, behaviour therapy and spontaneous remission.Z Psychol Z Angew Psychol.188(1):43-56.PMID: 6104879
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