Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Life and Death of Cancer Cells

At my last follow up appointment I asked Doc if my cancer cells were fast or slow growing. I wanted to figure out how long I've had this tumor. She quoted what I read in the Breast Cancer Treatment Handbook by Kneece. "Your tumor was this size (creating a circle with her fingers). One hundred days before that it was half that size (reducing the circle) and 100 days before that it was the size of a pencil eraser which is 1 billion cells. You've had this for years."

WHAT? I've had this tumor growing in my breast for YEARS?!
So, let me get this straight. When I had my yearly mammograms, the last one 11 months before the diagnosis, I had breast cancer? When I did self breast exams the cancer was there?  And while I watched my sister go through the horrible lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation I had breast cancer at the same time? Geez...

I am receiving Neoadjuvant Therapy.

If you are a candidate for adjuvant (after surgery) chemotherapy, neoadjuvant chemotherapy may be an option as a first treatment [66]. For some women, it can change surgical options. Neoadjuvant chemotherapy can shrink a larger tumor enough so that lumpectomy becomes an option to mastectomy [66,71-72].  
Most tumors respond to neoadjuvant therapy. In some cases, the tumor will disappear entirely. This is called “complete pathological response” because at the time of surgery, the pathologist is unable to find any sign of cancer. 
Doc measured the breast tumor and said it was about the same size as the last exam however it seemed to be breaking up into pieces. Sometimes a tumor will wither like a raisin and other times it will fall apart like a worm eating through an apple. The lymph node was the size of a jelly bean but now it's the size of a soft pea. 
Image of a whole tumor on the left.
The tumor responding to Neoadjuvant therapy on right.

We are making progress.
4 down 4 to go