Thursday, May 3, 2012

Treatment options

So what if during your breast cancer treatment you were given a choice of treatments with essentially the same expected outcome:

- lumpectomy with standard radiation for 5-6 weeks, or
- lumpectomy with seeded internal radiation for 5 days known as brachytherapy

Which would you choose? Probably the one which offers the shorter treatment span. And what if we added in the note that the shorter treatment option would leave the patient with a higher risk (30-50% higher) of needed a mastectomy or side effects such as necrosis, rib fracture, or infections.

Hmmm.... that complicates the decision a bit. Me, I cant decide which one I would select. I can see the benefits of shorter treatment time and personally found radiation a real drag in that I had to go every day for so many weeks. I see the appeal in the shorter treatment time and if given the option that it would have the same expected outcome with the higher risk of side effects I would be concerned.

Side effects can't be undone. If you have a mastectomy,  necrosis, rib fracture, or infections they can be very stressful and never go away. You can't undo a mastectomy. A fracture, necrosis, or infection will heal but may result in more scarring or other long term damage.

In brachytherapy they basically stick radiated stuff inside you which has a definite 'ick' factor as well. I don't care what the half life is, I'm not sure I want anything left inside me.

What this is telling me is that just because a new treatment option sounds good, we need to be concerned with the long term side effects as well. We complain that the FDA can take eons to approve a medication or treatment protocol but they also need the time to learn about the long term effects.

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