Saturday, February 18, 2012

Just how fast does a tumor grow anyway?

This question was foremost on my mind when I perceived a too big of chunk of time going by between when my tumor was discovered and when it was finally removed. At that time I could only find one paper addressing this, a woman who refused to have surgery yet agreed to have her tumor measured periodically. Hers did not grow fast. I would hear things like "Don't worry, you had the tumor for years, 4 weeks shouldn't make a difference.'
But during that time, the tumor went from 1.6 cm to 3 cm and developed a 1 cm sidecar. I went from Stage 1 to Stage 2 more than doubling my chances of death. Yes, thanks for that. When I confronted the surgeon, she said something about the original measurement must have been faulty. How hard is it to measure something by ultrasound?
Yes I know I received "The Standard of Care". My surgery date actually was moved two weeks forward but I think the Standard of Care needs to be revised. Anecdotal as my evidence may be, many women with TNBC cite similar growths.
Why do I bring this up now when it finally looks like this whole BC business is probably behind me?

On my cruise, I read the story of the physician who was assigned to the South Pole and developed breast cancer during their winter when rescue was not a possibility. She had to treat herself. I found her story fascinating on many levels.

Her personal life: Jerri grew up in an ideal household with loving parents and brothers who fostered learning yet she married an abusive, manipulative man and stayed in this awful relationship for far too long. This man to teach some sort of lesson, strangled their pet dog in front of her and her daughter yet stay she did. How come someone so smart could be so dumb? Does growing up in a perfect environment make one too trusting?

Her description on life in the dome from a scientific standpoint. How being in a very enclosed space for so long impacted relationships, how this all affected their bodies.

Her breast cancer: She documented its growth. In one 2 week period , it doubled. Apparently it was quite easy to feel. She could not perform surgery on herself not could they determine its cell type. The fact that she was 47 and the tumor was growing so fast led them to conclude it was estrogen negative, probably TNBC but that terminology wasn't used in 1999. Taxol was air lifted to the Dome.( Planes could not land when the temp was below minus 60) and dropped. She taught some of the personnel how to access her veins.. Initially she responded to the Taxol with the tumor shrinking, then it was at a plateau, and then started growing alarmingly fast again. Apparently not all BC cells are equal. The Taxol sensitive ones quickly died but the few resistant cells started growing. Her veins by that time were a mess. They did not want to give her cytotoxic agents (such as the Red Devil) that would lead to neutropenia as she could not be readily treated.
She was rescued during a small window of relative warmth and survived the whole ordeal (at least I think she did). By publishing her e-mails during her ordeal, one can tell what was going through her mind at the time.

Since I was treated, it seems that the standard of care is shifting to chemo first, then surgery regardless of the size of the tumor. This makes sense in that one knows if the tumor actually responds to that particular chemo or not.


krisa said...

She did die.

Sue in Italia/In the Land Of Cancer said...

Thanks Krisa
The book was very thought provoking. I haven't had the time to see what has happened to her. Very sad. Her kids were estranged at the time of her writing the book. Hopefully that changed before her recurrence.


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