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Chemo or not?

Posts: 243
Joined: Jun 2001

I have a very difficult decision to make. My internist and my oncologist have both told me that chemo is not really needed. (I have a stage 1 with no node involvment.) I am currently receiving radiation. The oncologist said that I have an 80% chance of no recurrance. That also translates into a 1 in 5 chance that the cancer will recur. Does it not make sense to fight this with every possible weapon? Both of my doctors have also said that I have a good reason to have chemo for my "emotional" well-being. I have read so many of your notes on chemo and have a clear picture that nausea and hair loss is not the only side effect to worry about. However, I don't want to wake up down the road and have some medical person tell me that it was too bad I didn't opt for chemo in the beginning. I know that I am scared of making the wrong choice. I don't know if I'm looking for permission...and if I am, from whom? My family is very supportive of me choosing either way. I would appreciate any thoughts on this. Thank you. My thoughts and prayers are with you all.

Posts: 105
Joined: Jan 2001

Of course, this is a decision that you alone can make and it's wonderful that your family is so supportive. I was Stage 2 with 2 lymph nodes involved and did 6 mos. chemo. Before I was informed of the node involvement I told my husband that even if my nodes were clear that I may still opt for chemo just for reassurance. My cancer was in my left breast only but I was told of a 50% chance of it recurring in my right breast. So, I opted for a bilateral (double) mastectomy. My thinking was, "hey, I chose to have a "good" breast removed to fight this thing...let's go all the way!". I believe in fighting aggressively from the beginning. I didn't want to look back and say "Gosh, if only I had...". But this is only my personal opinion. God will show you the way though prayer. I wish you love and God's grace as you ponder this decision.
love & hugs-
Mel in Arkansas

Posts: 14
Joined: Jul 2001

This is indeed a very difficult decision. Have you asked your doctor how having chemo would change your risk of recurrance? Have you thought of getting a 2nd opinion? You have every right to be as active a participant as you wish when it comes to making decisions about your treatment!
I know this is a very difficult time for you, and I send my love and support. I am in the middle of chemo (had the 3rd of 4 treatments last Thursday) and have discovered you live through it, especially if you complain about every side effect. There are meds and methods to help most of them, but only the "squeeky wheel" gets the oil! Good luck!
Love, Caroline from North Carolina

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tcbangels's picture
Posts: 114
Joined: Jun 2001

I believe thats what it is you sent me a few emails,Iwill tell you this much,but I don't want you making a decision on what I say.I had it 6yrs ago.My tumor was size of thumb nail, well they did a radical masectomy took 16 lymph nodes & 1 sweat gland ,one came back cancer,the doctor told me with me having the radical that isf it didn't hit lymph nodes I wouldn't have to have chemeotherapy, but it did so i had to have 6 treatments of chemeo & 5yrs of tamoxifen.When the doctors said about my pros & cons, before surgery.I look at my husband & daughter said what should I do?They both look at me & said this decision has to be yours & yours only its your body what you feel better on what to do but we are behind you on whatever you choose.I'm saying if you feel bettr having chemeo than girl go for it.There's one person that can help you make up your mind for the right decision thats your best friend, your brother & your Savior go to him & give it totally to him on making the right decision he will let you know what is right.Ask the holy spirit to just completely take control of your body & to lead you into making the right decision & he will in our SAVIORS name Our LORD JESUS CHRIST AMEN-CHERYL (TCBANGELS)

Posts: 262
Joined: Feb 2001

Dear Jayne:
It is me again! One thing I can tell you, is that having chemo is no guarantee against recurrence. It does up the odds against it. You need to research what dangerous side effects chemo has--one of the worse is that it can actually cause another cancer in a few cases. I have never asked what kind, because I didn't have a choice really (if I wanted to live a few more years); but I have assumed it would be in the bone marrow since that is what chemo weakens so much. Are you premenopausal? It means the probability of no children. I would opt for the lesser of the evils I believe - like Tamoxifen or Femara or Arimidex. Chemo can do damage to your eyes & sinuses; your digestive tract; your short term memory; even your heart. I am not trying to scare you from taking it--it just means you have to weigh the benefits against the toxic damage. Tell your fears to your doctor; and ask him straight out; what he would prescribe if he were in your shoes. Most doctors will be blunt if you ask them directly; and not for your emotionally well being; but for your best long term prognosis. God bless you.
Hugs from Brenda

gdpawel's picture
Posts: 538
Joined: May 2001

Very good pro and con advice from above.

The problem with chemotherapy is that most cases it will not cure, it is just pallitive(to ease the pain or force of without curing). Other problems with chemotherapy are its side effects, from mild to insidious. It depends on the individual, each MAYBE different. It is your decision only, what to do. You should have ALL the information you possibly can receive to make that decision.

Chemotherapy affects both normal and tumor cells. The effect on normal cells is the cause of side effects from chemotherapy. Some chemotherapy drugs do permeate(pass through) the blood brain barrier(the system that protects the brain from foreign substances like disease by blocking their passage from the blood). The group of drugs called nitrosoureas like Cisplatin, Cisplatinum or Carboplatin are such drugs and natural substances such as Taxol, also cross the barrier. Necrotizing Leukoencephalopathy is the form of diffuse white matter injury that follows chemotherapy, as well as a suppressed immune system.The body's immune system attacks and eliminates not only bacteria and other foreign substances but also cancer cells. Cancer cells are not foreign to the body but their biological function has been altered in that it doesn't respond to the body's normal mechanisms for controlling cell growth and reproduction. The abnormal cells can continue to grow, resulting in cancer. Much of the body's protection against cancer is carried out directly by cells of the immune system rather than by antibodies circulating in the bloodstream. Cancer is 100 times more likely to occur in people who take drugs that suppress the immune system than in people with normal immune systems.

Of course, conditions are different from patient to patient. But you should know what it is your getting into, you may want conventional adjunct treatment or not. Information is the most important thing to have. There is a legal requirement that all doctors must give the patient the information about INFORMED consent. It is the patient's right to determine what the patient wants done to their own body. It is not enough for consent for a patient to merely sign their name or say "yes" to proceed. It needs to be an "informed" consent which means the patient needs to be told things like the nature of the treatment, ALL of the RISKS and alternatives, including their risks and non-treatment if that's an option.

If the path of surgery only is implemented, the best course afterwards is vigilant observation. It may not be if or when but when and where. For metastatic disease diagnosis the enhanced(gadolinium) MRI is the proper protocal but the PET Scan is somewhat superior(if you can afford it or your medical coverage will pay for it).

I remember my wife's adage about fighting cancer(she was a twenty-eight year survivor), it's 90% Faith and the Will to Live and 10% the Art(not science) of Medicine.

Posts: 50
Joined: Jul 2001

There are many, many, different kinds of chemotherapy, talk to your doctor about which one would be right for you. The form of chemo that I took I did not lose my hair, it thinned and I had no vomiting, nausea,yes, some but very little. The smell of food did bother me but I maintained my weight through it all. Good Luck on your decision. Cinder

pamtriggs's picture
Posts: 407
Joined: Sep 2000

YES YES YES!!! Take the chemo. I was stage 1 & had no node involvment. So they thought. If so how come I am now in recurrance with stage 4 metastases everywhere & have had radiation al down my spine & am now on 6 cycles of adrian\mycin with 6 cycles of CMF to follow if the adriamycin does not work. Please take every treatment offered to improve your chances of not getting a recurrance. I know the chemo is not nice but its only for a few months. What's that against the rest of your life.
Hard decision I know but if I knew then what I know now I wouldn't hesitate. Love to you in whatever decision you make. Pam

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