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Thread: Can breast cancer be cured sometimes or not???

  1. #1
    Liza
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    Can breast cancer be cured sometimes or not???

    OK, now I'm alarmed! I just read someone's post that breast cancer can NEVER be cured!! I'm a 53 yr old woman, newly diagnosed. I had a 1 cm lump removed (from upper outer quadrant of left breast) for biopsy 10/22, and found out on 10/28 that it was IDC, with 15% of the 1 cm lump still being DCIS. The 3 mm margins were clear. It's grade III (8, not 9), ER/PR+, aneuploid, and Her2/neu borderline (FISH is being done...don't have results yet). My PET scan was clear. I have wide excision and SNB scheduled for 11/22, and if the breast tissue is clean, I'll have chemo, then rads, then I assume Tamoxifen or Arimidex (haven't talked to oncologist since we found out it's ER/PR+). If the breast tissue isn't clear, my surgeon will do a mastectomy. My surgeon is listed with Best Doctors in America, and my oncologist is one she recommended and has an excellent reputation and credentials. I'm also going to Moffitt in Tampa for 2nd opinion and treatment recommendation. My gynecologist told me I have a 90-95% chance (I assume she meant for a cure) and my oncologist told me 85-95% (at that time, he thought I'd be ER/PR- because of my age), and that he'd expect to see me at his retirement party 15 yrs down the road. I know this isn't child's play, but what about long-term BC survivors we all know about? I mean, if you're alive 45 years later with no recurrence, isn't that a cure???

    Also, I've been told by my docs, and read on BC websites and in Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book that survival rates are the same for lumpectomy w/ rads (if you're a candidate for that) or mastectomy. My oncologist's nurse practitioner reassured me that since it appears right now that I am a candidate for lumpectomy w/ rads, that it's purely a personal choice on my part and will NOT affect my chance for survival. Can I feel reassured that that's the case? I have read about a lot of women opting for mastectomy when they could've had lumpectomies and rads, according to what they said their docs said, because they were nervous about recurrence. I'd prefer lumpectomy and rads, but dread the thought of recurrence in the remaining breast tissue down the road (although I've read that even with mastectomy, you can have recurrence in the scar...not common, but possible)...and what about the other breast? I don't want to have a bilateral mastectomy unnecessarily just out of fear, but I'm willing to do whatever it takes to give myself the best odds too.

    AND I haven't educated myself yet about rads (haven't had time yet) but I've read some women's posts about their dread of it. Yet I've known people who've had rads (for other cancers, like lymphoma) and they said it wasn't bad at all. Is it something to be dreaded?

    After being terrified out of my mind for 10 days, I've had a couple of relatively good, hopeful days. Now I'm running scared again. Help!

  2. #2
    Top User
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    Hello

    You can be absolutely reassured that breast cancer can be cured, certainly in early stages. Your chance of cure are high, as described by your physicians.

    regards,
    Leo
    Leonardo F - Webmaster Cancer Forums
    Disclaimer: this information is for informational purposes only. It is not medical advice.

  3. #3
    MuttsMom
    Guest
    Leo,
    I'm confused now.....nothing new I know I was told there was no cure for BC because there is no way to know if every cancer cell was gotten by chemo and that it just takes one to start mutating. I know that women can live to be little old ladies, but that black cloud is still hanging over their head that it might come back. know mine wasn't caught early since the mammogram missed my 5.5 cm tumor when I found it and that I'm high risk but doing good almost 3 years later. How do we know is the chemo and/or radiation got it all? I have so much radiation damage, I don't know how anything could still be alive there, but I'm wondering about cells in the blood stream that could have hidden out from chemo.
    Thanks for any info
    Nancy

  4. #4
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    Nancy,

    This is a huge area in research. Unfortunately there is currently no way of knowing whether therapy has eradicated all cells. I would really love to have such a test, and tell my patients that everything is gone and that they do not need any further follow-up. Unfortunately cancer patients will always have some doubt that it might come back to haunt them...

    regards,
    Leo
    Leonardo F - Webmaster Cancer Forums
    Disclaimer: this information is for informational purposes only. It is not medical advice.

  5. #5
    Senior User
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    Hi,

    I will share my own experience. After I finished ALL my treatments, (it was my last day of rads) I asked my radiation oncologist at the check-up if I was "cured" or in "remission." These are his words: "We cannot say cured. We HOPE you are cured, but we say NED (no evidence of disease) because it is possible for breast cancer to come back for the rest of your life."

    Now, this does not mean that it will come back. Some women end up cured....they're just not sure which women will be cured for the reasons Muttsmom said....there COULD be microscopic cells lurking or dormant somewhere in the body. My oncolgist told me there is no test to determine this. If there were, lots of women would be spared treatments that they did not need. They are hoping that the chemo kills any possible renegade cancer cells in the body.

    But most women are cured. I think the number is around 80 percent. It's just hard to determine who will be in those numbers. Of course, the best place to be is stage 0. But I believe optimism should rule. I decided to see myself as in that 80 percent.

    Hugs,

    Margie

  6. #6
    LB
    Guest

    Cure.....Hmmmmmm

    Interesting thread to be sure....Cure...what cure?

    Let me see...the guidelines are usually "5" years statistically, but what if the bc has already planted itself in another area of the body after that point marker? And, let me see..we need to lop off our breasts; undergo poison toxic chemicals; and or burn our bodies. What has happened to all those millions and I mean millions of dollars that have been pouring into research and such, and here we are still using the same ole treatments and NOT guaranteed a reccurrance will happen.

    I had cancer in both breasts; high histologic grade tumor, vascular invasion; almost guaranteed that I will have a reoccurance in time.

    There is no cure, ladies.

  7. #7
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    Hello

    Unfortunately the answers to cure cancer are not simple at all. All the millions of dollars are working, as reflected by a signifficant increase in survival rates in most cancers. In the specific area of breast cancer, look at all the different molecular markers that were discovered and targeted: ER/PR, HER2 are just examples of what is to come. The request to cure cancer seems so simple, to eradicate a few cells that are not working well, but it sometimes feels just like digging deeper and deeper and things look more complicated. Believe it or not, there are not nearly enough people to conduct enough research in this field, given the enormous complexity of it.

    Like I said, if I had that magic bullet to tell which of you will remain cancer free I would be extremely happy, but it's just not possible right now...

    regards,
    Leo
    Leonardo F - Webmaster Cancer Forums
    Disclaimer: this information is for informational purposes only. It is not medical advice.

  8. #8
    Bree
    Guest
    Hi there, I'm a survivor and I'm de-lurking to share some info.....

    A doctor in Germany has developed a bone marrow test that indicates if there are disseminated dormant cancer cells floating around in the body subsequent to treatment. There was a clinical study done last summer, I have not received any information on it. Here are some exerpts from my correspondence with the doctor, from a year ago:

    "I could only offer you that we check your bone marrow for disseminated cells, and if you can send slides to us where we detect disseminated cancer cells we might be able to check the "activity" of your potentially present but latent disease. My colleagues have clinical experience with antibody therapies against disseminated cancer cells. They might have an advice with regard to the therapeutic options.

    If you are willing to bear a bone marrow aspiration, your oncologist would need to isolate mononuclear cells by Ficoll density gradient centrifugation and prepare slides that could be shipped to us (we would provide special slides and a protocol). Alternatively, I received one year ago a mail from a German collegue in Seattle who is studying single disseminated cancer cells in prostate cancer. His group should be able to perform all steps required, from bone marrow aspiration to slide preparation (although he would need to use our special slides as well; we need those slides to isolate the tumor cells later on). I do not know whether other groups in the Seattle work on breast cancer.

    The second possibility would be to check for the activity of your disease using blood samples. Detection rates of tumor cells are lower than in bone marrow but they can be easily obtained. 20ml of peripheral blood seem to be efficient to detect at least in some patients active disease. Perhaps this approach might be more convenient for the moment, although I have to admit, that we know less about tumor cells in the peripheral blood than in bone marrow."


    Regarding "The Cure", a number of issues arise, business and political to name just two. If you haven't read the book on how Herceptin was developed, (sorry I forget the name right now) read it. You will gain a clear understanding of the politics and personal agendas involved in research. I suspect these issues are common throughout breast cancer research and unfortunately we the 'end users' are greatly affected.

    As for the bone marrow aspiration, well I haven't done it... yet. I have been NED for 8 1/2 years and 4 years (a primary on each side) and have been poked, prodded, sliced, diced, squished and nuked enough for the time being....lol

    For those of you waiting for results, newly diagnosed or in treatment {{{Hugs}}}. Hang in there, once you finish treatment you'll find your "new" normal. I'm here to tell you that life can be good again, you can feel well and happy again, it just doesn't happen as fast as we'd like it to.

    Cheers,
    Bree

  9. #9
    MNlady13
    Guest
    Indeed this is an interesting thread. Liza, I was diagnosed in April 1996. Yes, 1996. I had a 6 mm tumor in my left breast (about 3 o'clock). I had lumpectomy, radiation and took tamoxifen for five years. No chemo. Well, it has been 8 1/2 years. Do I think I am cured? I sure hope so. Do I assume that cancer will never return. No way. I see my onc. annually (and right now I am five months late ), have a mammogram annually and do monthly BSEs. In the meantime, I remain NED and just take it one day at a time. Good luck to you. Lauri

  10. #10
    Liza
    Guest

    Still have questions...

    Thanks so much to all of you for your input re:cure. I'd welcome more responses to that issue.
    I would so much appreciate responses to the other two issues in my original post as well (re: lumpectomy and rads vs mastectomy, and why the fear around rads?)
    Thanks everybody!!

  11. #11
    Senior User
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    Hi Liza,

    I was told by my surgeon that I could go either way - lump or mast. He said that the survival rates were the same but that there was a bit of a greater chance of recurrence with the lump, but not much. I guess it all depends on what your comfort level is, what you can live with.

    As far as the rads - I don't understand that because I found rads to be the easiest part of the entire treatment, but everyone is different. Some hear horror stories of others who had great difficulty. Maybe some are just afraid of radiation?

    Hugs,

    Margie

  12. #12
    Hi Liza,

    In regards to your radiation question, I had no problems with radiation. I still worked, I'm a sixth grade teacher, played softball and did everything that I used to do. The only thing different was going to get zapped every day.

    As far as the cure/no-cure thing I think it's like if the cup is half empty/half full. All the cancer that was in my breast was removed. Will I get it again? If I ever win the lottery will I win again? There isn't an answer. If I get cancer again will it be because I had it once, or because I have a strong family history of cancer?

    We can beat ourselves up daily waiting for cancer to return, and believe me I have the fear at each check-up, or any time something strange happens to my body, but you can't let it control you.

    After my surgery my doctor told me I was cancer free and until someone tells me differently then, "That's my story and I'm sticking to it."

    Be well and positive :D

  13. #13
    CeeCee6
    Guest

    recurrence

    I am one of the unlucky ones. Five yrs and 9 months ago, I had aggresive DCIS, a lumpectomy, clean margins, and 25 Rad treatments.
    I went through a few yrs of panic for every thickening or lump I found, and had it checked by mammo and ultrasound( Nothing ever showed-normal.

    I felt a thickening all along ,just above the scar area, but the surgeon in her 30 sec breast check, deemed it nothing, the Rads oncologist said probably scar tissue, after a good examination, except she felt it was normal feeling. Recently I felt a hardness on the outer part of it, and was going for a mammo, so just let it ride the few weeks, until then.
    Well, to my astonishment, calcifications showed up, had a stereotactic biopsy, and its aggresive invasive ductal carcinoma.
    I am booked for a mastectomy and lymph node check, on the 19th Nov.
    It is amazing that in one year from clear it came to this, and especially when the surgeon never took my worries serious, stating, "oh you worry too much, your DCIS was caught so early, it was almost not cancer."
    Oh, and I wasn't even a candidate for tamoxofin, with no explanation.
    This time around, I am in charge, know a lot more, and nobody will pass me off, not this time-I am asking all the questions and expecting all the answers. Too bad I have to lose my breast, but I can live with that.
    We have to be lions, everyone, not lambs!

  14. #14
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    I was diagnosed bc in Feb 04 LWE followed by mastectomy as Grade 3 cancer and today I have had my final cycle of chemo. I will be having radiotheraphy in January - belt and braces to reduce the risk of recurrence according to my onc. I had both IDC and ILC and due to the latter am in the process of deciding whether to have a mastectomy on the other side to reduce the chances of me having to go through this again in 18 mths - 2 yrs.

    There is no guarantee in any of the above and as my onc has warned me I can still get primary cancer/recurrence in either breast mastectomy or not. My view is that I have done everything possible to reduce the risk of this happening and anyway I could get run over tomorrow - which considering my mode of transport in London is either feet or bicycle there is probably a higher chance of this happening!

    My philosophy in life is enjoy every day and don't worry about things which you have no control over. Find things to look forward to in my case loads of skiing hols in 2005 to make up for 2004. Also since I probably will have a mastectomy in the other side followed by bilateral reconstruction I am looking forward to two new pert breasts which defy both gravity and age!

    In a nut shell my advice is to do everything possible to reduce the risk of recurrence by not only following the doctors advice but also looking at nutrient, exercise and stress factors in your life but most importantly to keep smiling and enjoy yourself.

  15. #15
    LB
    Guest

    Just a couple of comments..

    You are all so articulate ladies and I appreciate your honest comments Leo....

    I wanted to point out something that perhaps I failed to mention previously(which could account for my lack of trust with medicine). I am a 4 time cancer victim (and I do not use the word cured here). I developed Hodgkin's DX when I was 18 years old; went through the conventional rounds of protocol for treatment and was supposedly "cured". Fast forward, developed Thyroid Cancer, Bone Marrow problems, and numerous skin cancers ALL related to the treatment I had. Just this year, (after 9 months) the mammograms showed the tumor in the left breast (IDC) and DCIS comedo in the right. And why was I at higher incidence? Because of the simple fact that my exposure to radiation almost 20 years ago caused it. (at least my oncologist concurs with that).

    This is what is so frustrating for me. Nothing has changed with our treatment options; I cringe when women on some of these boards think with the chemo/radiation that they will be put in remission; only to rediscover that the exact treatments that they have may put them in greater risk of developing secondary cancers (not only BC).

    Yes, conventional medicine has made leaps and bounds in all sorts of discoveries; but do you not find it incredulous that NOT one cure has been made with cancer research? As I sit here, trying to formulate a will since they have found another mass on my neck; nodules on my lungs; and god knows what else.

    Thanks for letting me post my thoughts.

  16. #16
    MuttsMom
    Guest
    I'm so sorry that you've had to battle this disease in so many forms. When I was dx Stage III ILC, I had no choice but to get FEC and radiation. I was told there was a 3% chance that I could get leukemia from one of the chemo's, I'm thinking it was the 5FU and also, with radiation, there was a chance down the road since it hit about 2cm of my lungs, that I could get lung cancer. Nothing about this disease or treatment is a guarentee of anything, that's for sure, but it's all we have now and I pray it gets better NOW.
    Prayers going out to you and that they will be able to get ahold on the latest cancer and you can have a very long life ahead of you.
    Hugs
    Nancy

 
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