The other day, I blogged about cancer recurrences and being on the hook. Of course with Olivia Newton John's twenty five year later cancer recurrence, the media is now full of cancer recurrence information.
Before I start, I need to state that anyone who says they have cancer and then say they are cured after treatment are idiots. You are not cured after a cancer diagnosis, you only can exhibit 'no evidence of disease' or NED. While there have been many cancer treatment advances in recent years, there is still no cure. Why do you think you need to keep going back to your surgeon or oncologist? They want to keep monitoring you....
So anyway, the media is now giving us lots more details on cancer treatments and recurrences. This will continue until the next big news flash that will displace it. There is a nice long article on cancer and recurrence on CBS now where they interview Dr Deanna Attai of UCLA and Dr Andrews at Hofstra Norwell School of Medicine.
""I would say breast cancer – a lot of these cancers – have become more of a chronic illness than a terminal illness. A patient may do well with bone metastasis. They may need ongoing treatment for the next five to 10 years, but it doesn't mean it's a terminal sentence. With radiation, thankfully, our techniques and technologies have improved. It all depends on how big the area is and the critical structures that have been affected," said Andrews....
Attai said a recurrence diagnosis can be very emotional for a woman.
"It's different for every patient so I do not want to generalize, but some common themes I see are that many women never truly get over having breast cancer. It's always something that's with them. Many women are changed by their experience, but the further out you get, the breast cancer takes more of a back seat. And we tell them to go back and live your life. A recurrence often brings back all the emotions and then some from when they were first diagnosed. And especially if it comes back somewhere else in the body," said Attai.
She said the first question is always, "How long do I have to live?"
Once the cancer has shown that it's gotten outside of the breast to other parts of body, she said there's the potential of dying from the disease, but she tells patients that tests can help identify what's going on and they can discuss treatment options and their effectiveness.
"We stress that we do have a lot of newer agents and many women are certainly living longer. But there's no question that women living with metastatic disease, at least right now, we can't say we can cure patients. We're much better at keeping the disease under control, gaining a remission now, but at this time, metastatic breast cancer is considered incurable. I think we will get to the point with newer, targeted agents, to talk about long term remission," Attai said."
Right now is a good time to be a cancer patient. There are lots of new treatments coming out. I have several friends who have been stage IV with breast cancer for more than a decade. Their quality of life is pretty damn good.
It doesn't matter how long ago you have had cancer, you need to remember that it still could return. I think you are at a higher risk of getting other cancers as well. Your body may be a temple but it could also have cooties hiding in the corners.
We need to remember we need to be alert to changes in our bodies for changes to talk to our doctors. Even if you call your doctor in a total panic because you could swear you have a new tumor that is going to kill you within a year (yes, I have done that and my doctors did not tell me I was crazy). Doctors do realize that patients are the ones who notice changes first so be sure to speak up.
In the meantime, don't go crazy, just stay alert.