Cancer is not cured. You have surgery; all traces of cancer are removed, but someday, maybe, it could return.
It’s up to you and your oncologist to figure out that risk, and make your decisions accordingly. It goes without saying that your partner, or a close, trusted friend or relative needs to be involved in this decision also.
For me, we decided to do a cancer evaluation, called the Oncotype DX, to determine what the percentage of recurrence was in my case. This test looks at many variables from my pathology report and the tumor itself, and comes up with a “score.” Remember, this score is NOT the percentage number. The score is between 1-100. Mine was 23.
Experts consider a score of less than 18 a minimal risk for recurrence. Those between 18-32 are a moderate risk, and those over 32 probably will benefit by chemotherapy as well as radiation therapy. After looking at several factors, my doctor told me that my rate of recurrence was 15% and by doing chemotherapy, we MIGHT be able to reduce that number to 12%! Keyword: might! There is NO guarantee.
On the other hand, chemotherapy has many “side effects” which are more than temporary issues that we are all familiar with, such as losing hair. I could deal with that. But chemo changes the entire body and some of those changes stay with you for the rest of your life. It is possible that chemo causes OTHER cancers!
After weighing the 3% MAYBE change with the possibility of side effects such as other cancers, and other issues that can come up later; we decided to forego the chemotherapy.
Remember, the cancer could come back and I can beat it AGAIN!
So, next week I will confer with the radiation oncologist, and we will determine when to begin the radiation treatment. It is 33 treatments, over a 6-7 week period. We do have Labor Day in there. After the radiation, I will be on a medication for 3-5 years. This is an estrogen-blocker, which inhibits the estrogen-fed tumor(s) from returning. It is reasonably priced.
I am at six weeks post-surgery and I am where I should be: mostly healed, but still a little tired. I am looking forward to adding certain cancer-fighting foods to my pantry, and getting back to the gym for relatively light exercise. No boot camp for a while! However, I need to move. I will have some fatigue as my body “lights up” with the radiation, but I hope to still manage several trips a week to the gym as I gain strength. Like the tortoise; slow, but steady.
After all, this is the rest of my life we are talking about!
As a P.S., remember that all cancers are different. You can’t even truly compare breast cancers, but comparing prostate cancer to breast cancer is like comparing a camel to a hippopotamus. My story is not your story, if you are diagnosed next month, or year or ten years. They are simply not comparable.