Life With Metastatic Breast Cancer
What Treatment Is Right for Me? continued...
Chemotherapy. These medications work by killing cancer cells. A benefit of chemo is that it can often shrink tumors fast. But the treatment usually has more side effects than hormonal or targeted therapy. Common ones include hair loss, vomiting or nausea, and tiredness.
You receive chemo in cycles. Each treatment period is followed by a rest to give your body time to recover.
Breast cancers that aren't fueled by hormones or the HER2 protein are called triple negative. They generally respond to chemo.
Radiation and surgery. These methods are used for specific reasons like treating a liver blockage, preventing a bone break, or if cancer spreads to the brain.
Comfort care is important, too. Medication can help with your symptoms or complications of cancer, and it helps manage side effects, too.
You may want to consider clinical trials. Ask your doctor if he knows of one that may be a good match for you. All of today’s standard treatments were first tested in research studies. It’s possible you may get a cutting-edge therapy before it’s available to everyone.
How Will Doctors Know if the Treatment Is Working?
Every few months, you’ll get X-rays and other scans to see if the cancer has grown, shrunk, or stayed the same. You’ll get a physical exam, too. Tell your doctor about any symptoms you've noticed.
Your doctor may order a test to check for "tumor markers." Some cancer tumors release these signs, which can show up in your blood. If the test shows that these markers are rising, it could mean that the cancer is growing or spreading.
Doctors will look at all your test results and your symptoms to decide whether your treatment is working.
Sometimes cancer can no longer be seen on scans. Your doctor may say you have “no evidence of disease.” This is something to celebrate, but the cancer isn't gone. Cells are still circulating in your body, so your treatment will continue.
Can I Take a Break From Treatment?
Yes, it’s possible. You might need one, especially if side effects bother you.
Talk to your doctor about it if an important occasion is coming up, like a wedding or a milestone birthday. A break may be just what you need to enjoy this special time.