What Can I Do For A 4 Month Old Cough Breast Cancer: Fancy Gadget and Half A Million Ringgit Failed to Cure Her – What Now?

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Breast Cancer: Fancy Gadget and Half A Million Ringgit Failed to Cure Her – What Now?

May (not her real name) is a 39-year-old female. In mid-2008 she gave birth to her child. Two months before giving birth, she noticed that her left breast had hardened. Ultrasound showed nothing wrong. The doctor suggested that it could be because the breast was engorged with his milk. Although she breastfed her baby the breast remained hard. There was no problem with her right breast. He went to consult doctors order and all of them came to the same conclusion – no problem!

Ultrasonography of her breast on December 1, 2008 indicated diffuse inflammatory process. The left nipple was retracted. Conclusion: probably diffuse mastitis. A biopsy is recommended. Subsequent needle biopsies showed no malignancy. Unsatisfied, a tru-cut biopsy was performed on January 29, 2009. The result showed atypical proliferation of cells that suggested an intraductal carcinoma. An open biopsy of the breast lump confirmed invasive ductal carcinoma and high-grade intra-ductal carcinoma.

May sought a second opinion from a doctor at a private hospital in Singapore. The histology slides were re-studied. It was concluded that it was a ductal carcinoma in-situ, intermediate grade with comedonecrosis and ductal carcinoma infiltration.

CT scan performed on January 31, 2009 showed: a) no metastatic deposits in the liver, b) multiple rounded sclerotic lesions were seen in the thoracic and upper lumbar spine suspicious for metastatic lesions, c) a small nodule in the upper lobe of the right lung. – probably a single lung metastatic nodule. A bone scan confirmed bone metastases in the left shoulder blade, left third rib and site on the spine.

Histopathology reports showed that the carcinoma cells were immunopositive for estrogen receptor and progesterone receptor. HER2 oncoprotein is overexpressed.

May was advised to start chemotherapy immediately. The first chemo-treatment started on February 2, 2009. A pump was placed to continue giving 5-FU. May also received two doses of Navelbine per 5-FU cycle. In addition, May gave Zometa for the bone. In total May received 13 cycles of chemotherapy from February 2009 to October 2009.

At this point I asked two questions:

1. What did the oncologist say about the chances of a cure? The answer was: The doctor said there would be no cure. The treatment only controlled the problem.

2. You must have spent a lot for this treatment? The answer: Yes, about RM 500,000. That’s half a million ringgit – right? Yes, it is.

A CT scan performed on April 27, 2009 showed: a) a single lung nodule in the right middle lobe. This measures less than 5 mm. It does not show any changes in previous examination, b) multiple sclerotic bone lesions. These were already noted in the previous CT scan.

May went to China for another opinion in May 2009. A PET /CT scan was done. The doctors in China concluded that May’s condition had stabilized and there was no need for treatment.

A CT scan on October 12, 2009 showed the cancer had stabilized. However, throughout October 2009, May complained of headaches, neck and shoulder pain. The oncologist said the pain had nothing to do with her cancer!

In October 2009, May completed her 13th chemotherapy treatment in Singapore.

In November 2009, May went to India for further treatment using the Cytotron (Cytotron is the commercial name of the device developed in India. It looks like an MRI machine that uses a rotating Field Quantum Magnetic Resonance Generator).

May received one hour of Cytotron treatment per day. While undergoing Cytotron treatment, May continued to receive the 5-FU-Navelbine regimen (14th cycle). The treatment was scheduled for a total of 28 days but after the 20th treatment, May developed a bad cough and chest pain. The doctor thought it was due to pneumonia and gave him antibiotics and cough syrup. An x-ray indicated left pleural effusion (ie, fluid in the lung). A week later the pain still persisted and the cough got worse every time May moved. A CT scan was ordered and revealed pulmonary embolism (blockage of the arteries in the lungs by blood clots that travel to the lungs from other parts of the body). May put on Heparin, an anti blood clotting medicine.

May returned to Malaysia in mid-December 2009. May started having pain again. His shortness of breath also persisted. He coughed everywhere he moved. The oncologist in Kuala Lumpur mentioned that the cancer appeared to be stable and there was no rush to continue with chemotherapy but the pulmonary embolism had to be resolved first. May prescribed Warfarin. His pulmonary embolism disappeared.

On February 23, 2010 a PET CT scan showed stable results. The oncologist said no chemotherapy is needed for now. But May had to continue receiving Bonefos (for the bone). Additionally, May was started on Tamoxifen in early March 2010.

In June 2010, May’s left breast became hard again. The oncologist did not think chemotherapy was necessary but May was asked to continue with her Tamoxifen and Bonefos.

In July 2010, the color of her left breast became dark. A PET scan on July 29, 2010 indicated increased activity of FDG starvation and this may represent an inflammatory process in tumor activity. There was also increased FDG uptake in the thymus. At this point, the oncologist suggested a mastectomy.

On September 2, 2010, May had her left breast removed. There was some wound infection after the surgery and it took two months to recover. The histopathology indicated invasive ductal carcinoma, grade 2 and some foci of ductal carcinoma in-situ, high grade. Twelve of the 13 lymph nodes were completely infiltrated by malignant cells with infiltration of the surrounding adipose tissue in 4 nodes.

On October 20, 2010, there was a small swelling in May’s right breast near the nipple. Ultrasound of the right breast showed nothing wrong. May prescribed antibiotics. Since there was no improvement, a needle biopsy was performed on October 27, 2010. The right breast tissue showed invasive ductal carcinoma.

The doctor suggested mastectomy of the right breast. This should be followed by radiation treatment for the left breast. There would also be radiation treatment to the right breast after the wound had healed. Bonefos would change to Zometa.

A PET scan performed on November 10, 2010 showed cancer activity in the right breast. Bone lesions that were previously stable have now become active. In this sense, the oncologist suggests more chemotherapy.

May underwent 3 cycles of chemotherapy using a combination of 5-FU, epirubicin and cyclophosphamide (FEC) along with Zometa. The 3rd FEC cycle ended on January 14, 2010.

How CA Care came into the picture

On November 3, 2010, we received the following email:

Hello Chris,

I’m Don (not real name) and I came across your website while researching some alternative cancer treatments. My wife was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer in February 2009. She underwent chemo and just had a mastectomy on her left breast. Unfortunately now her right breast is also affected. Last week biopsy showed it is an invasive ductal carcinoma. Doctor is suggesting another mastectomy but we are worried because we don’t think it can help.

Can you help us? How good is your treatment? Can I send the reports for you to review?

Hope to hear from you soon.

On January 14, 2011 there was another e-mail:

Dear Chris,

I would like to come to Penang and meet you to discuss about my wife. I have the latest scan results with me. What days and times are good for you to see patients?

Actually before these e-mails, Don came to our center to collect some herbs but did not take them due to lack of trust. Then he began to receive his first chemo treatment and suffered serious side effects. He had a headache, felt nauseous and dizzy.

Before she received her 2nd cycle of chemotherapy, May started taking our chemo-tea. The side effects of this second chemo treatment were reduced by about fifty percent. This increased his confidence in our herbal teas. When May had her 3rd cycle of chemotherapy, she felt even better.

The war is not over yet – maybe a “wave” is just about to begin

May was scheduled to receive three more cycles of chemotherapy. This time, the drugs to be used are Taxotere plus Herceptin. May is supposed to receive Herceptin indefinitely once every 3 weeks (but at least a year). May also receive Zometa once every 3 months.

From March 2010 to the end of July 2010, May was on Tamoxifen. According to the oncologist since there was a recurrence, Tamoxifen was not therefore effective. He is of the opinion that May should change to another drug – the newest generation of aromatase inhibitors. But for the aromatase inhibitor to be effective the patient must be in menopause. So, to achieve this menopause, the oncologist suggested removing May’s ovaries.

Don (husband) came to our center in Penang and told us the above story on 18 January 2011.

Comment:

1. Breast cancer war – fancy gadget plus half a million ringgit

Most patients (especially those who have never had the experience of having a family member undergo medical treatment for cancer) have the misconception that after surgery/chemotherapy, their cancer will go away. Unfortunately, this is far from being true. Read these two quotes.

Amy Soscia, a cancer patient said: There is no cure for metastatic breast cancer. He never left. You just move from treatment to treatment.

A renowned oncologist in Singapore wrote: Oncology is not like other medical specialties where doing well is the norm. In oncology, even extending a patient’s life for three months to a year is considered a success. Achieving a cure is like hitting a jackpot.

In a review called: In the end, What is more important? A review of clinical endpoints in advanced breast cancer (Oncologist, January 2011; 16:25-35), Sunil Verma et al, wrote:

– Many agents are being studied for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer (MBC), but few studies have demonstrated longer overall survival, the primary measure of clinical benefit in MBC.

– Of the 73 phase III MBC trials reviewed, a strikingly small proportion of trials demonstrated an improvement in overall survival duration (12%, n = 9).

From the beginning, May said the treatment he received was only to control the situation – and in this case, where is the control? They spent almost half a million ringgit but May was not getting any better. In fact, his condition worsened. She begins the second phase of another battle now that the cancer has spread to the other breast, after one was removed. The war will continue. Based on the review paper published in The Oncologist a week ago, the overall survival advantage due to chemotherapy might just be an illusion.

Can we not learn a lesson from May’s experience? Albert Einstein said: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

2. Total commitment – do you really believe in herbs?

Not all patients who come to us for help believe in what we do. We are firm in saying that it is not for us to “influence” you to follow our path. This must be entirely your choice.

We are well aware that after spending thousands of ringgit on so-called scientific, high-tech treatments given by the best brains in medicine, it is hard to believe that some roadside weed could help your cancer. To the educated mind it seems like a big joke. So believing in what we do is an important ingredient for success. Recent statistics have shown us that only 30% of those who come are really engaged or believe in what we do.

3. Chemo helped him – he became more confident

I told Don that I was going to write this story. Otto von Bismarck wrote: A fool learns from experience. A wise man learns from the experience of others. Therefore, the main purpose of writing this story is to share May’s experience with others – maybe those who want to learn would not have such a bitter experience.

Some patients believe even before they experience, but others need to experience before they can believe. It’s a choice.

4. Cancer War – In a war, no one ever wins!

Tragic stories of breast cancer wars abound. But all is not lost. Some patients have the courage to say: “Chemo? No thanks!” Many of them survived to tell their sweet stories.

Let me close by quoting Dr. Bernard Jensen (from Harvest Vide): “While the situation is terrifying, should fear be the correct catalyst for change? I do not think so. For fear is a disease in itself – a disease In therefore, it is not fear, but courage, humanity will be more effective in restoring health and harmony.”

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