Around 245,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year in America. It is the second most common cancer found in American women. Usually, chemotherapy is administered to patients in different doses, or sometimes not at all.
However, a new study finds that a full course of chemotherapy is the best way to tackle a certain kind of breast cancer — the timing and dose of chemotherapy matter a lot. The study helped find that lower doses of chemotherapy post-surgery go hand in hand with lower survival rates.
How a Full Dose of Chemotherapy is Better
Researchers studied adjuvant therapy (reduction of chemo doses post-surgery). It uses a combination of four medicines: 5-fluorouracil, cyclophosphamide, docetaxel (FEC-D) and epirubicin. This chemotherapy course is 4-6 treatment cycles.
The five-year disease-free and overall survival rate went down for those patients who had less than 85% of the treatment.
Dr. Zachary Veitch is from the department of oncology, University of Calgary Tom Baker Cancer Centre. He shared his shock that reductions in chemotherapy had such an effect on survival rates.
The research took data from 1,302 women in stages 1 to 3 HER2-negative breast cancer. They went through adjuvant chemotherapy between the years 2007 and 2014.
HER2-negative breast cancer does not have intensely high levels of a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2. If elevated levels of this protein exist in the body, it is HER2-positive breast cancer.
Lower doses of chemotherapy work well and on HER2-positive breast cancer, but according to the study, it is not as effective on HER2-negative.
Dr. Veitch says this research aids oncologist as well as patients when they are trying to form a treatment plan. Early-on, when it is hard to predict what will happen, this is helpful.
While the first cycle of chemotherapy is tough on patients, doctors must inform them how crucial this high-intensity treatment is.
Cancer cells are vulnerable within the first few treatments; later on, they may start to resist. Hence, high-intensity treatments initially are vital.
Success rate depends on which stage the cancer is at
According to Dr. Lindsay Keith, a breast cancer oncologist, every patient reacts differently by chemotherapy. Different side effects may happen to different patients. Common side effects include hair loss, low white blood cells, vomiting, and brittle nails.
When a patient gets the diagnosis for cancer, they fall into different stages. Stage 4 is thought of as the worst case, usually spread to the lymph nodes in the body. Lower stages tend to be curable, lower the stage, the higher the chances of survival.
Doctors prescribe certain tips to prevent the risk of developing breast cancer:
- Little alcohol consumption
- Regular exercise
- Maintaining a healthy weight
The research conducted in this study points to the fact that the dosage and timing of chemotherapy treatments are quite significant. When dealing with this kind of breast cancer, there are definite advantages to taking a full dose of chemotherapy, despite the side effects. 1 in 8 women in America has breast cancer, and it’s crucial to come up with an effective treatment to combat this disease.