The diagnosis of any kind of cancer, especially breast cancer, is pretty scary. Immediately you start to question whether or not you’re going to die and how much time you have left to live. Fortunately, with early-stage breast cancer, you do have some time to make decisions about your health care.
One of the decisions you will need to make is whether or not you will choose chemotherapy as part of your treatment. While many women, due to a fear of cancer, choose to follow whatever the doctor says and subject themselves to a number of chemotherapy drugs (all that have side effects including some serious ones,) the reality is that some women with breast cancer don’t need chemotherapy.
Unfortunately, there is no way to predict 100% of the time which women would benefit from chemotherapy and which women do not need it. Fortunately, a new test called the Oncotype DX can make your decision easier. This test looks at each woman’s unique genetic tumor characteristics (the tumor is submitted following surgical removal.) Based upon the genetic markers of your tumor, the test does its best to predict whether or not you would receive substantial benefit from chemotherapy. In my wife’s case, since her tumor type was considered less aggressive, the benefits of chemotherapy were not substantial enough for her to make the decision to take chemotherapy.
The nice thing about this test is that it can save women from unnecessary chemotherapy. Unnecessary chemotherapy adds to the cost of treatment and has side effects including an increased risk of additional cancer in the future.
The interesting thing about chemotherapy is that while it is designed to kill any cells that may have escaped the primary tumor site (the breast,) there is no guarantee that it will work or is needed. If there are no cancer cells remaining after surgical removal, then chemotherapy is totally worthless and potentially harmful. If there are cancer cells that have left the breast and spread to other sites in the body, there is no guarantee that chemotherapy will kill the cells as chemotherapy is not 100% effective.
In general, chemotherapy reduces the risk of cancer growing and spreading by 30 to 50%. In other words, if a woman’s risk of future breast cancer (after the diagnosis of breast cancer) is 10%, then chemotherapy would lower her risk of future breast cancer to only 5 to 7%. In my wife’s case, that small difference was not enough to convince her to ravage her body with unnecessary chemotherapy, a decision with which her oncologists concurred. In place of chemotherapy,
Sandy is going to use a number of nutritional supplements that have been clinically proven to kill cancer cells. Her hope is that these supplements will be as effective if not more effective than using chemotherapy which she may not need. Because supplementation is safe and without side effects, she will get all the benefits from their use without any negative effects.
Cancer therapy is very much an individual and personal decision. There is often not a “right” or “wrong” decision, and there are no guarantees or way to predict the future. Blindly following a doctor’s advice is no guarantee of success. Instead, YOU must use all the tools and information at your disposal to make the choice that is RIGHT for YOU.
Lesson # 1: Not everyone with breast cancer needs chemotherapy. Many women fall into a gray area where you will have to make a decision based on consultation with your oncologist. The Oncotype DX test can help make your decision easier.
Coming Soon- Blog #8 Hormonal Therapy
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