Still Have Questions About Girlfriend's Recurrence

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QUESTION: My girlfriend could not take tamoxifen. However, she could take Taxol. After chemo, her doctor tested her every three months. Once her Ca27.29 count went from 50 to 124 he gave her more tests to determine what was happening. The tests/scans detected nothing. We asked for drugs thinking that whatever was happening could stop if treated immediately. He said no because he wanted know what he was treating. Finally, three months later the cancer spread to her liver, back, and brain. Extensive treatment was provided. However, she died three months later. My question is: Why wouldn't he treat her based on her blood tests instead of waiting for more physical evidence? I can't help but think that if treatment was given at the first sign that someone was wrong she would have had a better chance.

ANSWER: Thank you for sharing your thoughts, anguish, and love that you have for your girlfriend. I am so sorry about her loss of life, and all of the deep suffering around that.

What her doctor did - watching her closely with serial X-rays, rather than just treating her based on the blood test results alone - is what many doctors would have done. Earlier intervention with chemotherapy may not have made a difference in how long she had--and it could have caused side effects at a time when she was able to enjoy feeling pretty good. I hope this helps. It sounds like she gave so much of herself to you--so in a real and spiritual sense, she lives on through you and others that she loved.

—Marisa Weiss, M.D.

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