DALLAS, TX (Ivanhoe Newswire) — There is a growing debate within the medical cancer community about chemotherapy, whether it has been over-used, and whether the benefits to shrink patients’ tumors outweigh the painful side effects. But there are no simple answers.
Three years ago, 36-year-old Jenifer Briley, herself a nurse, wife, and the mother of two daughters, was diagnosed with stage three inflammatory breast cancer, which has just a 40 percent survival rate over five years. She started chemo, then radiation to shrink the tumors and stop the spread of cancer.
Briley said, “I believe the chemo’s the only reason I’m still alive. If I hadn’t had it, my chances were zero.”
The chemo controlled the metastasis and shrunk the tumor enough so that Briley got a double mastectomy to remove all the cancer.
Philip Kovoor, MD, an oncologist at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center said, “It helps us to do less surgery; it helps us to clear margins and remove all cancer, and it also helps us to go after any seeds, cancer that may have spread.” (Read Full Interview)
Since genetic and other risk factors play a role in the development of cancer, some experts say the older approach to chemo may have been too much. Some oncologists believe the toxicity and side effects such as hair loss, nausea, and pain may be more severe than the benefit in some cases.
“I’m alive, so I don’t know what’s more severe than being dead,” Briley stated.
Dr. Kovoor said, “And, I would say from ten years ago to now, we have been smarter, and I use less chemotherapy than I did ten years ago.”
Based on the evidence and the results, Dr. Kovoor believes Briley made the right choice. She’s showing no signs of cancer.
Briley shared, “I want the 50 years. I don’t care about the five months of hard, not at all. I would do it again, in a heartbeat. Wouldn’t think twice.”
While the medical community decides which patients benefit most from chemotherapy, it has clearly saved and extended lives. Patients should consult with their own doctors before making decisions.
Contributors to this news report include: Don Wall, Field Producer; Mark Montgomery, Videographer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Hayley Hudson, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.
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TOPIC: CHEMO – YES OR NO?
REPORT: MB #4458
CHEMOTHERAPY: Chemotherapy is a drug treatment involving powerful chemicals used to kill fast-growing cells in a patient’s body. It is most often used to treat cancer since cancer cells grow at a rapid rate compared to other cells in the body. Many different chemotherapy drugs are available, and they can be used alone or combinations based on a patients’ needs, to treat a wide variety of cancers. While effective, chemo can come with a host of side effects; some mild and treatable, while others may cause serious complications. It may be done for a variety of reasons, such as curing the cancer without any other treatments, destroying the leftover hidden cancer cells after other treatments to prepare for another treatment (for example shrinking the growth to then go in via surgery and remove it), or even to ease the related signs and symptoms of cancer. It can also be used for treatment of other conditions such as bone marrow diseases or immune system disorders.
SIDE EFFECTS: Common side effects of chemotherapy include; hair loss, fatigue, loss of appetite, fever, mouth sores, pain, easy bruising, constipation, vomiting, nausea, and even diarrhea. Many of these can be prevented, treated, and will subside after chemotherapy treatment ends. However, there may be some long-lasting impacts including damage to the lung tissue, infertility, heart or kidney problems and risk of a second cancer.
DEBATE: There has been some bad press and stigma surrounding chemotherapy, including, but not limited to one recent study in which researchers unexpectedly found that chemotherapy may actually make cancer worse. The chemotherapy, while killing off cancer cells, also kills off healthy cells as well, causing these healthy cells to secrete a protein that sustains tumor growth and resistance to further treatment. Findings such as these, as well as the unwanted side effects and sometimes long-term damage caused by these extremely powerful therapy drugs are causing some serious debate amongst members of the medical community as to whether or not chemotherapy is necessary.
MORE FROM DR. KOVOOR: “There’s been a lot of bad press about chemotherapy … One of the common things is, oh I’m going to get chemotherapy, I’m going to lose my hair it’s never going to come back, I’m going to just be vomiting and hovering over the toilet for the next three weeks. I’m not going to be able to work, I’m not going to be able to do the things I enjoy doing. With the advent of supportive care and better anti-nausea medications, I have patients that are working full time, balancing their life, still able to do the things that they enjoy doing. And we want to preserve quality of life … I’m not saying that chemotherapy can’t have its challenges because it certainly can. But if it’s used in the right setting I think the oncology community as a whole is saving lives. So I’ll close with this, if you look at breast cancer mortality from the 1980’s to what’s been reported here after 2015 there’s been an almost 40 percent mortality reduction in breast cancer … And why is that? Well some of it’s chemotherapy but other is being wiser about when to use it and when not to use it, learning more about endocrine therapy, better radiation techniques, better screening and imaging modalities. So it’s a combination of all of the improvement in technology and science that I think has helped that.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THIS REPORT, PLEASE CONTACT:
Susan Hall, PR Baylor Scott & White
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