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- Wed Jul 25, 2007 2:02 pm
My sister is 36 years old. She was diagnosed with metastatic left breast cancer stage 4. The tumor in the left breast is 6x4 cm. The tumor also spread to the right axillary lymph node and liver. The tumor size in the lymph node is 2x2 cm and about 10x5.5 cm in the liver. The liver was enlarged 8 cm. I would like to know what the most advanced chemotherapy treatment for my sister and if her condition is curable. In her condition, is chemptherapy used to relief pain and cancer sypotms or is she going to be cured? Thanks for all your help.
| Dr. Tamer Fouad
- Tue Jul 31, 2007 10:50 pm
I am sorry to hear about your sister's condition. Generally speaking, breast cancer tends to be more aggressive when it appears in younger patients than in older ones.
Without philosophising, it really depends what you mean by cure. If you mean returning back to normal and live a long life free of disease, then that is not attainable in most cases for stage 4 breast cancer. There are exceptions for sure, but the appropriate answer would be "no".
That leaves us with the option to treat the symptoms and pain. At this stage you may be in for a good surprise. Chemotherapy can do more than just treat symptoms or pain. The tumor itself responds to the treatment. In this way the tumor shrinks, dies out and in some cases completely disappears. That is the form of cure that chemotherapy can offer and it should not be brushed aside. Ask yourself this: would you rather see your sister with the tumor as you described or in a couple of months from now see her with a normal breast, liver scan showing a dying lesion etc. I think at this stage you will realize that chemotherapy does more than just treat the symptoms or the pain.
Your sister will feel better, you will feel better and the doctor would have attained his goal from giving chemotherapy.
That said, the trend is for advanced breast cancer to relapse after it has responded. When and how is a big question. I have seen women with metastatic breast cancer live for years even after they relapse. When a cancer relapses it does not mean the war is over. It just means that the whole story will start all over again. We will look for a chemotherapy regimen that aims at kill the relapsed tumor with the hope of rendering her disease free clinically. So the aim is to kill the tumor cells which invade organs and produce symptoms and cause disfigurement, etc.
When we do not have anything else in our inventory of drugs to give that we think has a good chance of producing a response as stated above, it becomes unwarranted to give chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is not given for symptom relief per se as it produces symptoms of toxicity on its own.
I hope that answers your question. I have given it my best shot; however, I recommend that you sit with her doctor and discuss this with him. I was only speaking in a general sense of course.
Please let us know if you have any further questions.