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Need Advice -Chemo Yes or No Please read and Help.

Leeane33
Posts: 4
Joined: Dec 2012

Hello All,

Our mother who is 66 year old was recently diagnosed with stage 2 invasive breast cancer and quickly had a mastectomy (one breast) a couple of weeks ago, luckily it did not spread to the lymph nodes one was taken out and tested. After visiting 2 oncologists post surgery, both recommended Chemotherapy. First doctor suggested 4 months of chemo with a treatment every 3 weeks and the other recommended 6 months with a treatment once a month.

The doctors think the chances of the cancer coming back with no chemotherapy is about 30% chance, but if she goes through Chemo then chances of it coming back will drop to 10%. However, the doctor also said that there is also a 5% chance to develop another type of cancer (such as bone cancer) from the Chemo treatment itself.

Our mother is having a really tough time making a decision whether to do the chemo treatment or not and I was hoping some people who may have been in this situation before could shed some input, facts and any information you can share would be GREATLY appreciated.

We will not make a decision for her but want to make sure that she has some facts and information from people who have been through this before to make the right decision for her.

thank you in advance for reading this post!!

SIROD's picture
SIROD
Posts: 2177
Joined: Jun 2010

Probably the reason the oncologist suggested chemo is due to the fact it was invasive, meaning it did spread a little and the blood could have picked up malignant cell or two.

You didn't mention if your mother is ER+, PR+ or Her2+ or triple negative. If she is TNBC (tumor negative breast cancer) that would be a good enough reason to have chemotherapy. This is the one chance to remove any cell floating around in the blood. TNBC doesn't have many options except for chemotherapy and radiation. She should want to give herself the best chance of not having a recurrence. Local & regional recurrences are treated the same way one is treated the first time.

Once cancer goes into another or distant organ bone, lungs, liver and etc. it is stage IV and then though it is treatable, there is no cure at this time. This is the one she wants to avoid and therefore to achieve that if she is TNBC, then chemotherapy it is.

If she is ER+ or PR+ she would have been offered hormonal therapy drugs such as Tamoxifen, Arimidex, Femara or Aromasin. If she was HER2+ she would have been offered Herceptin or Perjeta.

Since you only mention chemotherapy, it might be that she is TNBC and therefore chemotherapy gives her the best chance of eradicating any loose, floating cell in her body right now. If that is the case, I would urge her to do what the oncologist recommends.

Best wishes to you and your mom,

Doris

Leeane33
Posts: 4
Joined: Dec 2012

Hi Doris,

I'm not sure about the ER+, PR+ or Her2+ or triple negative. I know she had some tests and they told her it was not a hormonal growth and if it was she could have just been treated by pills.

thank you so much for responding to my post!

Gabe N Abby Mom's picture
Gabe N Abby Mom
Posts: 2415
Joined: Sep 2010

I didn't have a choice about chemo. In my case, it was a requirement for survival. I'd like to add that chemo is doable, it's not fun or easy. But it is doable. The difference between 10% and 30% is significant, and if both oncs agree that you Mom would benefit from chemo...that's a pretty strong recommendation. Especially if they are recommending the same drugs. The difference in the schedule may simply be to make it a little easier on your mom, a 4 week cycle allows a little more recovery time.

It's a tough decision, because none of us have a crystal ball. But I am sure your mom will do what is best for her, and what fits her situation. Best wishes to your mom, you, and your family.

Hugs,

Linda

Leeane33
Posts: 4
Joined: Dec 2012

Thank you Linda for responding to my post!

salls41's picture
salls41
Posts: 340
Joined: Apr 2012

but I just want to add that there are reasons that the oncologist both say chemo.. so I think in my opinion I would get your Mom on this board and have her read how we all hated our chemo, thought we would not get through it, then woke up one morning and it was our last day of treatment and we made it!! And we felt great because we gave ourselves every single opportunity to live and enjoy our lives a lot longer because of the nasty poison.... I know she is afraid of chemo because of the ugly side effects, but I believe she should listen to her docs.
Prayers for her and you.
Sandy

Leeane33
Posts: 4
Joined: Dec 2012

Hi Sandy,

she doesn't use the computer so we wanted to get some advice so I can print it for her and she can read other people's suggestions who have been in this or a similar situation!

after she reads I will post any questions she may have, at this point its the struggle of whether to do Chemo or not, the 5% chance of Chemo causing another cancer is what really scares her and all of us.

thank you so much for responding to my post!

kacee999
Posts: 109
Joined: Oct 2012

I kindof think that is a no-brainer myself. Especially since she had IBC which is very aggressive. I am 61 and just finished 4 months of chemo and a month of rads. Wasn't fun, but I got through it and I feel like I have given myself the BEST chance at long term survival. The alternative is you don't do the chemo, worrying about the "5%" and the IBC comes back with guns a blazing. Hard to have hindsight then and go, should've done it, should've done it!

Noel's picture
Noel
Posts: 3101
Joined: Apr 2009

I don't know what to say about your Mother as to whether she should take chemo or not. Chemo was not in my treatment plan, just a lumpectomy and rads. Did her oncologist say exactly why he was suggesting chemo since her node was clean?

Wishing her the best in her decision and hugs to you for being such a great daughter.

Good luck,

Noel

Rague
Posts: 3311
Joined: Aug 2009

I look at odds/%'s a bit differently than many. Basically they mean nothing to me other than that MY % chance of recurrance are either 0% or 100% . In other words - either I will have a recurrance/mets (100%) or I won't (0%) - 5% or 'whatever' % of my body cannot be effected - either it comes back somewhere or it doesn't.

Another reason I don't put much into 'odds' is that they are just a number/stats based on ALL people with the general DX.Those who have other health issues and those without. Me- I'm very healthy, very active and always have been.

I had no option - it had to be chemo before surgery and after. Followed by rads. I was 63 when DX'd IBC (Inflammatory Breast Cancer) 3 yrs ago. For me, my first chemo, A/C (4 infusions 2 weeks apart) was 'easy' . The second, Taxol (12 weekly) was nasty to me but made it through with help from Hubby taking over all house and dog chores and Son taking over all barn and horse chores. I'm 66 now and still 'riding NED (No Evidence of Disease)'. If I had had options, I'm sure I would have taken everything offered to me to fight the monster as I couldn't have faced Hubby or Son if I hadn't done all I could and then went on to Stage IV. Just how I feel.

Is your Mom IDC (Invasive Ductal Carcinoma) or ILC (Invasive Lobular Carcinoma)?

Winyan - The Power Within

Susan

Eleanor1's picture
Eleanor1
Posts: 68
Joined: Sep 2012

Mine was IDC ( invasive ductal carcinoma), early stage, no mets, originally we thought a very minute ca cell on 2 lymph nodes ( lighted on sentinel biopsy) but was negative on final pathology. My onco told me at the beginning that she was leaning on just hormonal tx but I had to do 2 more tests, the Pet scan and mammostrat studies. Pet scan was neg but I didn't score well on the mammostrat. She then recommended 4 cycles of chemo every 3 weeks because she wants my chances up higher for th Ca not to come back since I am only 52 followed by 6 weeks of radiation after. Seriously, I also had a hesitation at one point but with my family in mind, I said yes and try not to look back on my decision. 38% or more for me is big, I want to see my kids get married, see grand kids in the future and to travel more, growing old with my husband without that cloud in my my mind if there is ca cell floating there ready to mutate anytime....although I know there is no 100% guarantee, chemo is another reassurance for me. Everyone is different and if you have any doubts, you need to sit down with your doctors and clarify them . I had my first chemo 2 weeks ago and although I was very scared, my first one wasn't really that bad. It is doable and tolerable. I am going for my second next week with a better perspective and an open mind. Lots of prayers and good family support helps a lot! Good luck guys and take care!

Double Whammy's picture
Double Whammy
Posts: 2301
Joined: Jun 2010

when I had chemo and I tolerated it well. While my breast cancer WAS hormone sensitive (both estrogen and progesterone) and I AM on an aromotase inhibitor (the pill), and my nodes (2) were negative, chemotherapy was recommended because the biology of my tumor, analyzed by Oncotype DX test, showed that 30% of the women studied whose breast cancer had the same genetic markers as mine had distant recurrence within 10 years. Whether I would be in the 70% group who did not have recurrence or in the 30% who did is unknown. Breast cancer is not one single disease - there are so many variables that the most effective treatment for one cancer might not be applicable to another. And as Doris said, the chances for recurrence are either 100% or 0% for each individual. You don't get 30% recurrence or metastasis, you either get it or you don't.

I remember my surgeon saying "they will probably offer you chemotherapy". Offer? Like a menu item? Turns out it wasn't offered - she said I was in a high risk group for recurrence and I should have chemo, then radiation, then arimidex. High risk group was enough for me.

Yes, chemotherapy can cause another cancer. I believe that's what Robin Roberts is experiencing. The odds for that happening are much much lower than that the odds of having a recurrence of breast cancer, tho. You already know your mom has had an aggressive breast cancer and it is possible that some microscopic cells have already packed their bags and taken up residence in parts unknown. Or they haven't.

I have been exposed to many carcinogens throughout my life (20 years ago I smoked fully aware that it was risky, I live in an agricultural area, and have not eaten organic, etc., etc.). I had 2 primary cancers (breast and endometrial) and I do occasionally think about developing another cancer, and my little mind does go to the fact that I had chemo, but I grew the other two entirely on my own. It will either happen or it won't.

Sounds like your mom may not have all the answers she needs to make a fully informed decision based on her type of breast cancer. I can only tell you my experience and my thoughts. I was about her age when I did chemo. I was hypertensive (still am) and overweight (ditto). Chemo is not fun. On the other hand, it's not so bad and it's certainly doable. It's been a little over 2 years since I completed my treatments. I was back to my old self very quickly. I look at the chemo, radiation and arimidex as insurance. I like to believe that the surgery alone got all of my cancer since it was a small tumor and my nodes were negative, but I trust the experience of my oncologists who know that it's all too often not the case.

Suzanne

Rague
Posts: 3311
Joined: Aug 2009

A lot of us have been exposed to carcinogens throughout life. I definately have been. Have never smoked but I was raised on or near Army/Air Force bases. Had radiation to my throuat after tonsils out at 1 1/2. Lived not too far from where there were 'dirty' above ground nuclear tests in the early 50's. Was in the Army. Was a Master Cosmetologist for 10 yrs. Did screen printing for several years before. They had the 'kinder/gentler inks. Did upholstery for several years. Lived on or near (often under the flight path) Naval Air Stations for 20 yrs. Now live under one of the flight paths for B1B's. SO - I've been around lots of stuff that could have all contributed to the IBC. WIll never know - but - hey my life has been very interesting and fun so don't think I'd do anything different.

WInyan - The Power Within

Susan

(Think you meant me on the 0% vs 100% not Doris)

Double Whammy's picture
Double Whammy
Posts: 2301
Joined: Jun 2010

0% or 100% - that was Susan (Rague).

Suzanne

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