I met with an oncologist early this week. She outlined the chemotherapy regimen she recommends for me. It isn't enticing. If I had a different kind of cancer there would be newer "targeted" drugs they could give. Since I have this weird triple negative kind of cancer, all they can offer me is the older more toxic drugs they have given for decades. These are the ones that have the nasty side effects; hair loss, nausea, fatigue, etc... Since my appointment with her I have also found that the more toxic of the two also increases the likelihood I will develop a lethal type of leukemia within 10 years of taking the chemo. I could also have lasting side effects like foggy thinking (chemo brain), neuropathy, pain, skin problems, etc...
I found an article in a reputable oncology journal that says over treatment with chemo for early stage breast cancers likely causes more harm than good. Treating with chemo as an adjuvant therapy is controversial to say the least.
The oncologist said I needed to have the lymph node biopsy- she would recommend more treatments if the node was positive. If it is negative she would only want to give 4 treatments 3 weeks apart.
I decided to consult my general practitioner, a D.O. that I like and respect a lot. She also encouraged me to have the lymph node biopsy, but for a very different reason. If the lymph node is negative we agreed there is very little chance the cancer had left the breast. If there is little chance of that, then I think it is a case of overkill to have chemo- I feel the risks outweigh the likelihood of benefit.
The oncologist told me her recommendation is based on numerous studies that have shown the prognosis for women with my type of cancer is more favorable when chemo is given after surgery and before radiation. I wonder how they can know which of those women who survived with the chemo would not have survived without it. What if their cancer was completely eradicated with the surgery and they never really needed the treatment at all? Cause and effect seems impossible to predict to me. There are too many other factors that could affect the outcomes like; family history, diet and lifestyle, emotional support, etc...
I am going to see a radiation oncologist this week as well as my gynecologist, another doctor I like, respect, and have a long history with. I plan to gather as much information as I can, ask opinions from my personal doctors who know me, and hope the best course for me will be revealed.
I am also trying to reach my surgeon to get the lymph node biopsy scheduled and done. I hate to have another surgery but I feel like my decisions will be easier to make when I know that piece of information.
Thank you to all of you who have sent prayers and messages of support. It is wonderful to have caring family and friends.