Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Why I need chemo

People have asked, why, if I'm node-negative, I need chemo. The answer lies in the size of my tumor along with my HER2+ status.

According to various studies done, the risk of recurrence is quite high for HER2+, even when node negative and even with tumors smaller than 1 cm. (My largest invasive one was 3.4 cm and I also had other smaller invasive tumors).

One looked at 5-year recurrence for women diagnosed between 1990 and 2002 with HER2+ tumors. They found that 30% had recurrences, and this was for tumors between 0.5 and 1 cm. It is commonly thought that the larger the tumor, the more likely the recurrence - estimates for me range from 40 to 50% chance of it coming back with no further treatment.

Plus, 15% of the women studied had recurrences with metastatic disease - meaning stage IV. Frightening stuff

After chemo and herceptin, only 7% had recurrences. Most of the recurrences happened between 1 year and 3 years after treatment.

So, you can see, that as much as I don't want to do this chemotherapy thing, I really have to if I believe in science and statistics, which I do

Herceptin is very new. There is conflicting information regarding whether dropping off herceptin after your year is up means it will eventually lose its efficacy. Recommendations are one year - there are people doing it for two now. Stage IV gals get it weekly forever and it seems to be prolonging their survival.

Time will tell but I'll be paying attention.

Anyway, that is why I have to do chemo.

Off I go.



  1. The same is true for triple negative breast cancer (what I had) - I know several that were node negative but got 6 rounds of chemo anyway and we don't have a herceptin for our type. Since I was node positive, I'm getting 8 rounds. 7 down, 1 to go. Hell, I'd take 4 more if they'd let me just for good measure because this triple negative stuff is scary as shit. It's not horrible - attitude is key so you should do just great. :)

  2. Chemo wasn't fun, but you know what? I'm with you on the numbers thing. I wanted the best numbers possible. I was stage IIA with a 1.3 cm tumor and one node positive. I had 4 rounds of AC and then 12 rounds of Taxol (4 rounds split into 3 parts each given weekly to minimize side effects). I want to be here as long as possible.


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