My young, 65 year old mother has been diagosed with stage 4, high grade breast cancer which has mastasized to the lung and possibly a spot on her spine. While we wait for test results(1 month now) you would never know, she feels fine, looks good, and is as spunky as always. What is the typical survival rate if she goes through all the chemo verses denying treatment and making the best of the time she may have left ? Please let me know your comments quickly. She is in Cleveland, Ohio.
Dear gsl: The good thing about breast cancer is that it may very likely respond to treatment. We have women here who have had advanced disease for 6+ years and are doing well, on treatment. Although treatment is not "fun," many women tolerate it quite well and can live near normal lives. Of course, there is no guarantee, but at this juncture it may well be worth considering unless she has objections or side effects become unmanageable.
The decision for treatment of Stage 4 breast cancer is a very individual one. Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book says that survival after stage 4 diagnosis hasn't increased significantly in the last 20 years. To me, that sounds like all the chemo they are doing now isn't doing much, so I would have to think long and hard before doing chemo if I had a recurrence.
One thing you should find out right away is if the tumor is Her2Neu positive. Herceptin is very effective on those tumors and the side effects are not nearly as bad as most other chemo drugs.
Get a second (and third and fourth, whatever is needed) opinion and help her make a decision she is comfortable with.
I re-read your letter. It seems as if this is the first time your mother has been diagnosed with cancer. You do not say that it has recurred.
If it is the first time she has been diagnosed, I certainly think she should try treatment. I am 69 years old and Ist time diagosed, and have has a mastectomy. I sure have a lot in life to look forward to and do not intend to give up real easy! You mother could have several years left, even with cancer that has spread.
Tell her the chemo is not nearly as bad as I expected. I had my last (8th) treatment today, and still have the radiation and anti-cancer pill. I got through all the chemos just fine, only vomiting with the first two, and then for a week or less. The others---not enough sickness to hinder me much.
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