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I Am Trying To Decide If I Should Have Chemotherapy For Triple Negative Cancer. I Am So Confused.?

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I Am Trying To Decide If I Should Have Chemotherapy For Triple Negative Cancer. I Am So Confused.?

Postby Aethelberht » Mon Jan 26, 2015 8:39 am

I take it you mean triple negative breast cancer (estrogen, progesterone and HER2 negative).

This is actually a better prognosis than triple positive breast cancer which is a lot more aggressive.

The normal conventional treatment would involve surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy - or any of a combination of the three.

I understand the terror that goes with making such decisions. I work in chemotherapy research, running clinical trials in new chemotherapy drugs and regeimns. Believe me when I say ALL cancer patients face the same terror and confusion. This is the main reason your doctor would suggest you have someone else with you when you go and talk to him about diagnosis and treatment options. It is thought that cancer patients experience such shock, that they only take in about 5-10% of what their oncologist tells them during their appointments.

I have seen a lot of patients go towards naturopaths and natural therapies in place of conventional medicine - but the results are not good. If you wish to use naturopatic and natural therapies by all means, do so, but use it as "complimentary" not "alternative" treatment - meaning use natural therapies AND conventional chemotherapy - you do not have to choose between them - use both!

A healthy diet, exercise and healthy general lifestyle is always beneficial regardless of cancer diagnosis.

My suggestion would be to discuss your options with your oncologist. Have someone else there with you - someone you trust - so they can take in information you may miss.

The other thing to think about is what if you do not have the chemo, and later relapse with breast cancer? You would most likely feel regret or guilt that you didnt have the treatment.

I have never been diagnosed with breast cancer myself (touch wood) but know that if I was to end up in that situation, and having seen everything I have in my career, I would throw everything I could at it - surgery (double mastectomy), radiotherapy, chemotherapy, naturopathy, change of diet, change of lifestyle - yeah, it does cause panic :)

Though the double mastectomy bit...only if it was a hormone or HER2 positive cancer - a negative result means it is not linked to hormones, and therefore you wont need ovarian suppression, or hormone suppressing therapy. This also means the length of your treatment may be shorter. Tripple positive patients have ongoing medication for 5-10 years, and never seem to get over the merry-go-round of doctor appointments and treatment. Tripple negative may mean you only need chemotherapy and radiotherapy - and will be finished within the year (yeah, I know "only" seems a bit strange to say, but it is all relative really ain't it).

Join support groups, talk to your oncologist, social worker, dietitians etc. Knowledge is power - but remember, your oncologist has been studying this field for many years - be guided by their experience, but dont be afraid to ask questions.

If you do decide to have complimentary treatment (in combination with chemo - not instead of) let your oncologist know what you are taking, as many herbal medications interact with other conventional medicines and even with chemotherapy. St Johns Wort for example interacts with just about every other medication, and when combined with some drugs, it can be fatal!

As for the side effects of chemotherapy, these can be minimised these days. Most patients go through chemo with little to no side effects at all. One trial I am working on at the moment had 2 patients go through the same treatment - one had a rough time, the other kept asking us when the treatment was going to start, and was dubious when we told her she finished all treatment a week ago! She thought it was just the work up for the treatment - she had no side effects, kept playing tennis weekly, swimming daily, and had no fatigue or nausea at all.

Everyone reacts differently.

As for hair loss - this depends on what drugs you are given. Again, everyone reacts differently. Bare in mind - it is only hair, and it will grow back, albeit it often grows back differently. If straight now, it may grow back curly, colour and texture often changes. Some choose to wear wigs - though many find them itchy and irritating. May wish to consider a number 4 buzz cut to minimise hair loss on your pillow or under the shower. Though many find this distressing, remember, it is only temporary and your hair will grow back.

Good luck with your journey. Join a support group so you have someone to talk to who has been through what you are going through now - that way you will know you are not alone, and what you are experiencing is normal.
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