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Thread: Interferon for melanoma--How long do the side effects last?

  1. #1

    Interferon for melanoma--How long do the side effects last?

    My 75-year-old father just finished his initial course of interferon (5xweek for four weeks). His blood counts stayed fine during the treatment but his main side effects were fatigue and anxiety and depression.

    His last treatment was Friday and he will take 2 weeks off before starting injections.

    My question is: How long will it take him to recover from the psychological/mental side effects? He can't put thoughts together, his speech is garbling (a new symptom, just happened today). Thank you!

  2. #2
    Administrator Top User brainman's Avatar
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    Hi SMR. I am very sorry about your father's cancer and deteriorating mental status. Your question is not an easy one to answer. It really depends on what is causing this change in him.

    1. A lot of us (including me) go through times of great depression when we first find out about our cancers. Some times the depression can be quite deep and affect our decision making, our moods, our ability to concentrate....
    2. Of much more serious concern to me is the possibility that his cancer has metastasized (spread) to his brain... a not to rare a place for a melanoma to spread. Have they done any brain scans yet (MRI of CT)?

    There are probably other explanations as well.

    One suggestion: If you have NOT told his medical team about this change, you should. There are good and safe ways to deal with depression, if that is the cause. There are also thing they can do if his cancer is now in his brain. But you will not know until he sees his doctor about this new problem.

    I hope his medical team can help and soon. You and your father are in my thoughts and prayers.
    Long-term cancer survivor
    1992 Astrocytoma grade 2, left motor strip
    2005 Recurrence this time said to be an Oligodendroglioma grade 3, same location.
    My Story Part 1: http://cancerforums.net/viewtopic.php?t=2528
    My Story Part 2: http://cancerforums.net/viewtopic.php?p=7350
    My Story Part 3: http://cancerforums.net/viewtopic.php?t=8029

  3. #3
    Moderator Senior User
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    Aug 2008
    SMR, I'm somewhat suprised the doctor(s) prescribed interferon treatment for a 75 year old man .... it can be a very rough treatment and the only real benefit for most people is that it delays recurrence by about a year (by clinical studies) but costs a year of quality of life...But there is also a European study which concluded that Interferon treatment provides a bigger payoff against ulcerated melanoma lesions...

    There are also studies out there that do show that the Interferon 30 day initial induction phase provides almost as much benefit as the entire 12 month conventional treatment plan (30 day induction phase + 11 month maintenance)...There is nothing wrong with opting out of further Interferon treatment and going into the "watch and wait mode" -- alot of melanoma patients far younger than your Dad have opted for this......

    To answer your specific question, I also participate on 2 other Melanoma boards where there are alot of patients who have posted their experiences with Interferon....Mental confusion, hallucinations, and depression are not uncommon side effects associated with Interferon....I agree with Brainman that one ALSO CANNOT discount the possibility of a recurrence/metastases to the brain -- even while on Interferon treatment, so you may want to have this checked out....

    If this is a side effect, it may or may not diminish or resolve when he finishes the treatment -- and it could get better or worse during the Maintenance Phase.... it affects different people differently and I'm afraid there is no set answer.... Some people go thru the entire regimen with only manageable flu-like symptoms while others are knocked for a loop and a half.....But to be honest, I haven't heard of anyone as old as your father going through Interferon ....

    You didn't mention your father's melanoma Stage or if this treatment regimen is in response to recurrent disease, or part of the adjuvant treatment to initial treatment.... Not knowing the specifics of your fathers' disease, and realizing that the decision to opt for Interferon can be very difficult, you may want to nevertheless encourage your Dad to have a discussion with his oncologist about the 11 month maintenance phase's risk/payoff reward for a 75 year old -- if this conversation hasn't already occurred....

    Prayers and Blessings,

    HaoleBoy (aka Hawaii Bob on other Forums)
    Stage IIA
    1 year + 1 week NED (so far -- I think)


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