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Breast Cancer Drug Could Trigger Lung Disease

gdpawel's picture
Posts: 538
Joined: May 2001

I lost one of my aunts to the side effects of breast cancer treatment in January of this year. Her daughters allowed her to have a lumpectomy with resection of a number of lymph nodes and concomitant chemotherapy and whole body radiation. To a seventy-nine year old, it is like hammering nails on her coffin. Her death was from terminal infections that invade the body after the person's immune system is destroyed by chemo/radiation.

I came across this article while researching information about her demise:

Breast Cancer Drug Triggers Lung Disease

Taxol More Likely Than Other Drugs to Cause Problem By Michael Smith , MD

Dec. 4, 2001

Women with early-stage breast cancer often receive chemotherapy. But a new study shows that one chemotherapy drug in particular appears to increase the risk of lung inflammation, and researchers suggest using it with caution.

Taxol is a relatively new drug in the world of breast cancer treatment. Some studies have suggested that women with cancer that has spread to their lymph nodes might do better with Taxol, but this has not yet been proven.

Taxol is often used along with radiation treatments since it's thought the drug might enhance the radiation's effects. Researchers have now found, however, that the combination may cause more problems than it solves.

Lead researcher Alphonse G. Taghlan, MD, and colleagues looked at 41 women who'd received both chemotherapy, including Taxol, and radiation. They wanted to see if a lung problem -- called radiation pneumonitis -- was more common with Taxol.

Radiation pneumonitis is lung inflammation that occurs from radiation. It develops about eight weeks after completing a course of radiation. Chemotherapy increases the chance of having this problem. Symptoms include fever, difficulty breathing, and a severe, dry cough.

Many people improve gradually over a few weeks. But when the disease is severe, strong anti-inflammatory steroids are often used, with uncertain benefit. Typically, the affected area of the lung scars and shrinks with time, and X-ray shows loss of usable lung space.

Radiation pneumonitis is normally rare, but the researchers found that it was much more common in women who received Taxol.

The results are published in the Dec. 5 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Just 1% of women who'd received radiation and chemotherapy without Taxol developed radiation pneumonitis, compared with nearly 15% of those given Taxol.

The researchers say this finding is highly significant and suggest that Taxol be used with caution, especially since Taxol has not been shown to have any clear benefit.

Future research will help women with breast cancer and their doctors determine the real risk of Taxol. In the meantime, you can use these findings as an opportunity to discuss the available treatment options with your doctor.

Thanks to WebMD Medical News

Again, this is information. You choose what you want to do with it.

Posts: 235
Joined: Oct 2001

Hi, dear, I understand your correct anger over what happened to your aunt. I would feel exactly the same way in your shoes. However, we must all remember that each person reacts very differently to treatment, and, sadly, some do not do well at all. Having said that, be sure you understand that I am 67 years old. When I was a young girl, the only treatment for breast cancer was when it finally ate its way through your breast (an extremely painful, slow process), you died. That is why so many woman are still so frightened of the diagnosis. Now we have things with which to fight this monster. All of us are very much aware that in many cases we are hammering a mosquito. But this is all we have. And the statistics with treatment versus no treatment are staggeringly positive. Sadly, in the case of your aunt, not for everyone. But at least we can fight. For this we are very scared but grateful. Thank you for your input to this group, most of us are excruciatingly aware of the risks of treatment. Best wishes, Shirlann

Posts: 682
Joined: Feb 2001

Your description of your aunt having WHOLE BODY RADIATION after a lumpectomy cannot be poossible unless she was in an unlicensed facility that didn't know 'up' from 'down.'

The site of the tumor gets the radiation - that's why the breast is marked. There's more to your story than you've told - essentials left out same as the story of your wife who fought cancer for many years before succumbing.

We have spoken to you before about the news you present. I read of the information you presented AFTER I had the taxol, but I have not been affected and most women are not affected - but the pneumonitis is not fatal and goes away - perhaps you should too.

Posts: 243
Joined: Jun 2001

While I hope your intentions are good, I must say that a study based on 41 women hardly would constitute a responsible medical study...certainly not one that any reputable medical organization would accept as providing conclusive results. Your heart may in the right place in posting these various messages, but please consider the situations of so many of us. We are in a battle for our lives and some may refuse treatment based on some "facts" you have posted. This may prove to be more detrimental in the war we fight. There is so much that is left out of the information you cite. Being in the medical profession for many years, I would urge you to continue your quest for info, but exercise wisdom in what you share.

Posts: 706
Joined: Jul 2001


Again you come to us bearing a negative bit of worthless information.

You have my sincere sympathy in loss of your beloved wife and now, your aunt.

I also feel very sad for you and wonder why you spend so very much time researching the medical treatments your loved one's chose to have? It was their choice to make and the most important time for research is before one begins any treatment.

We all know the risks of the treatment(s) we choose. Our will to live leads us to make those choices. We also understand that there are no guarantees that our chosen treatment will have the desired effect and we know that there may or may not be certain side effects long after treatment ends. We all respond differently, physically, as well as emotionally. The same is true with our loved one's who travel this road with us.

Perhaps you could benefit from grief counseling and/or a bereavement group? I believe it's normal enough to want to lash out when we lose someone we love. With time, however, this should pass. If you're doing such an unusual amount of research, after losing a loved one, then you may need to ask yourself why. If you're looking for reason's to bring litigation, then by all means, find a suitable attorney and get about it. Otherwise, you're just making yourself ill. What do you hope to accomplish with that effort? I'm only guessing but it would seem that you're stuck in anger which you cannot get past as you never post any "positive" findings.

Please consider getting some professional help in finding your way back to a wholesome, healthy, forward focused life.

We, here, work toward that goal every day. I'd say that there isn't much negative/scary info you could share with us that we don't already know. Through our sharing, we try to help one another find courage, while finding ways to work through the negatives and find a balance as we face our fears, concerns and issues. Please respect our space and efforts and refrain from posts such as this latest one. It serves no real purpose.

I hope you will choose to get the help you may need. I'm sure the side effects of any such help would be nil. Also, you may want to try researching grief and bereavement topics, as it may help you to understand
yourself and guide you in seeking help.
Life is far too precious and short to while away in anger or frustration. Just ask any of us survivors!

Love, light and laughter,

gdpawel's picture
Posts: 538
Joined: May 2001

If more people researched how and why their loved-one died after being treated by orthodox cancer therapies then I believe there would be more effective and less toxic treatments available. Ideally, we would conduct such research before the treatments were administered but we usually don't have the luxury of time to learn what the oncologists are not telling us when it matters most. It is scary when we try to give oncologists the benefits of doing what needs to be done but we have to learn to ask more questions and seek more answers.

It takes a very focused, questioning and deliberate mind to go about the process of understanding a medical "soup" the likes of which oncologists prefer to keep a mystery from all of us. It seems the medical profession doesn't want to hear about gynological cancer and keeps referring to the lifes of women loss to this horrible disease as "rare". If it was their lives, they might not call it "rare". Some people would have you believe that because "their" bodies didn't give out after receiving chemotherapy or radiation that these treatments are "o.k.". Sometimes it is good for the soul to hear what others in similar circumstances have to say.

In the hopes of curing disease or helping patients, the medical profession uses rather drastic treatments for devastating diseases they know will kill someone in a short time. I think in their efforts to try to convey hope to both patients and family, many of them do not make the families aware enough that these treatments are drastic and can have serious side effects. It is so important the public knows they have a choice in the chemicals they put in and on their bodies.

The quality of life must be considered as a major decision point in cancer care. That element, so long missing in most clinics, hopefully will be brought to the fore expecially in the many cancer clinical trials. I hope that quality of life soon becomes a major outcome issue for all involved in the treatment of patients with cancer. I will continue to be an advocate for my loved ones and help others in their own journeys with cancer.

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