Sunday, September 21, 2008

Treatment updates

New studies are showing that Zometa, an IV bisphosphonate, is shown to reduce recurrence/mets by approximately 1/3.

Bisphosphonates are bone-building drugs, used in the treatment of osteoporosis and osteopenia (the precurser to osteoporosis). It makes sense that they'd prevent bone mets - mets tend to go after weak areas of the bone - but it's somewhat thrilling that they tend to prevent any recurrence or mets in other parts of the body as well.

So, no question as to what I will do next. I'll switch from Actonel, another bisphosponate, to Zometa, and hope that the extra help does me good.

The down side? Back to the chemo ward for IV infusions. Side effects mimicing the flu. Oh, joy. Hopefully this will prevent the downward slide of bone loss that I've already experienced (I'm osteopenic); hopefully this will help keep me NED.

It gives me chills to go near the building. Makes me feel sick to my stomach.

But I'm going to make the appointment tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

What are your odds of recurring without any further treatment at all? How much does this reduce that number?

Kristina said...

The statistics are murky, so I don't have hard and fast numbers that directly apply... but here is what I do know.

The five year survival rate for stage IIb breast cancer is 82%, meaning that I have an 18% chance of dying of breast cancer within five years of diagnosis.

New studies are out that show that the risk of recurrence increases over time; I am less "safe" at ten years out than at five years out. There are no twenty, thirty or forty year statistics, but we know that the risk doesn't go away.

The bad news? Breast cancer under age 40, a grandfather with breast cancer, a pretty aggressive variety of breast cancer. These things make my odds worse than average (the 82% doesn't factor in all of those things).

The good news? I've done a LOT of treatment. A LOT. And each treatment promises to reduce the risk of recurrence.

When you add up all of those things, I have no idea what my real stats are - nobody does. I am fighting for percentage points, though, because that is all that I can do.

This particular treatment is promising as well because of my osteopenia. I'm at SUPER high risk of breaking bones as I age due to bone density issues, and that can be as deadly as breast cancer. I'm hopeful that the bisphosphonates can repair what the other treatments have wrecked.

Anonymous said...


I am on the Zometa arm of a bisphosphonates clinical trial. Although I don't enjoy going back to the hospital for the infusions, I have not had any side affects and the infusion is 15 minutes.

I also just wanted to thank you for your blog. It has been a bright light and hit the spot for me many times along my journey.

Anonymous said...

Hi Kristina,

I have seen your posts on the YSC board and felt a connection to you. I too, was stage IIb, and I have a 6 1/2 year old daughter. I'm also trying to be "greener" and more local when I am a consumer and in general trying to be less of a consumer. I have also had chemo and a number of surgeries (not as many as you've gone through, but I've taken a pretty aggressive route as well). I also have struggled with other issues that you have mentioned in some of your posts either here on on YSC. Somehow I've always really identified with your messages, and I thought it was about time to let you know, in part because I saw your post here on Zometa and after talking with my oncologist today, I think I'm going that route too, much as I hate getting back in that chair. A 15 minute infusion twice a year...I figure I can handle that given the potential benefits.

Much love to you.