Recurrent/metastatic cancer likely terminal?


Question from Sam: My sister has just had her second breast removed (she had her first breast removed 8 years ago). She is incredibly sick with the chemo. I have great fears that we could lose her. Is it true that to have the cancer return after such a long time that it is likely to be terminal?
Answers - Patricia A. Ganz, M.D. I am uncertain from your question whether your sister has a new cancer in the other breast or a recurrence of the initial cancer.

By a recurrence, I mean that the initial breast cancer has now spread to another part of the body, like lungs, bones, etc. This is called metastatic breast cancer. If this is the situation, she is likely to have some response to the treatment, but the prognosis might be uncertain. If you are concerned about her prognosis, the best thing is to discuss it with her physician and get specific information. Do not assume that she is more significantly ill than she is.
Marisa Weiss, M.D. Sometimes, the effects of treatment are very scary to watch.

Don't assume that she is feeling lousy because of active cancer. Often times, she may look sick because of the treatment's side effects. These days, there are many effective ways to reduce side effects like nausea and vomiting. This is important. Not only will it help her feel better, but it will also help her stay hydrated and energetic. We also have medications that will help keep up red blood cells, as well as immune cells. If she is experiencing nausea, make sure she reports it to her doctor. Some patients are reluctant to do that, because they don't want to be seen as complaining. The best way to help your doctor help you is to let them know what you need.

On Wednesday, October 17, 2001, our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference was called Quality of LifePatricia A. Ganz, M.D.,Marisa Weiss, M.D., answered your questions about how breast cancer can affect physical, emotional, social, and sexual aspects of your life.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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