The "C" Word

You may have heard by now that my mother has been diagnosed with breast cancer.  To date, this is what we know:

  • The tumor is small.  It is around 1 cm.

  • She has the most common type of breast cancer called infiltrating ductal cancer.

  • The doctor estimates that she has about 20% or under chance of lymph node involvement.

  • My mom seems to be a good candidate for a lumpectomy.  However, since her breast tissue is dense, they took an MRI.  This allowed them to thoroughly look for other tumors. We should have the results on Tuesday.

  • If there are no other visible tumors, then he recommends a lumpectomy and sampling of sentinel lymph nodes (those nodes to which it would likely spread).  Once looking at those under the microscope and receiving the results  mentioned next, he would be able to stage the cancer.

  • Currently, the biopsied tumor is being testing and those results will be back in a week to ten days.  They use a national lab (not a local) called Clarient Labs.

  • The main reasons the tumor is being test is as follows:
   (a) Hormonal Status:  The tumor is tested for estrogen receptors and progesterone receptors.  This is important when chemo drugs and hormones are picked.  Example: One doesn't want to use a product that encourage or raises estrogen if one's cancer responds positively to that hormone.

   (b) HER2:  Certain cancers make human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2), which promotes the growth of cancer cell.  Such cancers tend to be more aggressive.  Again, when it comes to chemo drugs and such, one would use a medication that targets HER2 or is at least effective against it.

   (c) DNA:  Determining the DNA identity of a tumor can give specific information to the doctors as well, such as how nasty or bland the tumor is.  This biological makeup has predictive values to it, such as occurrence statistic, fast or slow growing, etc.

What does all of this mean?!  Once we have the MRI results, we will  have a better idea on how to proceed.  Her team will consist of the surgeon, an oncologist, and a oncology radiologist. 

If the MRI is clean, then surgery will be scheduled.  If not, we sit down to talk to the surgeon again to see what he suggests and at that time, seek a second opinion.