How long can a person stay on chemo?

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How long can a person stay on chemo?

by goodlife on Thu Oct 07, 2010 04:51 PM

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Someone near and dear to me was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer back in March 2010. He had a 7cm tumor on his pancreas that was inoperable. There were also lesions on his liver and the cancer was wrapped around his celiac artery as well.
He's had cyberknife surgery targeting all three areas (he traveled out of the country for the cyberknife) and is on four different types of chemo.
Gemzar, Tykerb, Xeloda, and Avastin.
He has been on these chemo's since May with amazingly little side effects. These chemo's have not really affected his quality of life and he remains fairly active.
His CA 19-9 at its highest in May was over 5000 and has been steadily coming down and as of yesterday was at 613. His last CT scan showed his tumor had shrunk nearly in half. He will have another in about 2 weeks so we're anxiously awaiting to find out whether the tumor has shrunk anymore or not.

My question is how long can a person realistically stay on so much chemo before the chemo does as much or more harm than the cancer itself?
I fear that as soon as he stops taking all this chemo, the cancer will begin to grow and spread again.

RE: How long can a person stay on chemo?

by Joan_l_3 on Thu Oct 07, 2010 06:10 PM

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Well, it's an interesting question you have asked.  While it's true that chemo is often hard on the body, it isn't always as bad as the stories told by some.  There is a pc survivor who was on various chemo protocols for 7-8 years before he died.  He was able to live his life for most of that time.  Consider the alternative.

Pancreatic cancer is an unusually aggressive, virulent cancer is it's most common form and most people are just happy if they are able to stay alive for a bit.  There is a Dr. Robert Fine @ Columbia in NYC who put together a chemo protocol called GTX for pc patients.  Some of the patients on that particular regime are living as long as 5 years.  That is amazing for pc patients.

Many pc patients are content to be on some sort of chemo for the rest of their lives simply because it allows them to have a life.  If your friend can stand the chemo, why not let him live as long as he can, particularly as long as his quality of life is good?

Good luck to your friend.

RE: How long can a person stay on chemo?

by Oncrx on Thu Oct 07, 2010 06:51 PM

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good question.  I would say if its working dont mess with it.  Any possibility of surgery at some point?  If the tumor is staying the same and he doesnt have any side effects then keep doing that until one of those things changes.  If you stop chemo and the tumor is still there it will come back.

RE: How long can a person stay on chemo?

by mjl304 on Thu Oct 07, 2010 11:20 PM

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Dear Goodlfe,

Yes, it is a good question. My circumstances sound very similar to your special person. My CA 19-9 was over 5,000 when I was diagnosed. The pc had spread to my liver. I was put on GTX and within 5 months the CA 19-9 level was within the normal range. I continued on GTX for 14 months before stopping for 7 months. When the tumors in my liver started to grow again, I went back on GTX for the next 6 months. Fortunately, I had the same result. I stopped chemo again and have now been off for another 7 months.

So, it is possible. I know of one other person who has been on GTX for over 5 years straight. I know of another lady who has been on chemo for metastasized breast cancer for over 7 years. 

As the other epole have said, if he can tolerate the chemo, if the quality of life is reasonable, then he should contiue, certainly while it is working.

We need to be realistic about this, of course. Even if the chemo succeeds in reducing the tumors to what appears to be nothing, that does not mean that there are not cancer cells still present. I aam told that is extremely rare, perhaps never, that chemotherapy alone can cause complete remission of pancreatic cancer. Stage 4, in the end, is stage 4.

But in the meantime, he should go for it!!!



RE: How long can a person stay on chemo?

by goodlife on Fri Oct 08, 2010 03:54 AM

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Thank you all for your answers.

I guess I didn't realize it was possible to be on chemo for such lengths of time. That's just what I was trying to find out.

I will continue to hope and pray that the tumor continues to respond to this chemo and that this cancer doesn't spread anymore.

Currently his quality of life is more than reasonable and that, in and of itself, is a blessing!


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