Thursday, February 11, 2010

5 down, 1 to go!

One week from today I will wake up dreading the day, as it will be chemo day. I readily admit to wondering what would happen if I just didn't bother to show up. But next Thursday is my last chemo treatment. That calls for a party! But I will continue to have Herceptin infusions every three weeks through November. Herceptin (trastuzumab) is a monoclonal antibody. Antibodies are substances the body produces to help fight infection or other foreign particles. Monoclonal antibodies are made in the laboratory, and some are designed to attack specific cancer cells. Herceptin targets cancer cells that “overexpress,” or make too much of, a protein called HER–2 or erb B2, which is found on the surface of some cancer cells. Herceptin attaches to the HER–2 positive cancer cells and slows or stops the growth of the cells. Herceptin is used only to treat breast cancers that are HER–2 positive. HER–2 positive cancers overexpress the HER–2 protein or have amplification (too many copies) of the HER–2 gene. Approximately 20 to 30 percent of breast cancers overexpress HER–2. These tumors tend to grow faster and are generally more likely to recur (come back) than tumors that do not overproduce HER–2. My biggest fear is that the cancer will recur and chemotherapy will become my life. I would much rather sacrifice my remaining breast than to go through another chemo regimen!!!
In 2005, the results of four clinical trials showed that Herceptin is effective in the treatment of early-stage breast cancer that overexpresses HER–2. In all four studies, women who received Herceptin and chemotherapy lived longer and had significantly less chance of the breast cancer coming back than patients who received chemotherapy alone. I can only hope!
They say the most common side effects associated with Herceptin are fever, nausea, vomiting, infusion reactions, diarrhea, infections, increased cough, headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, rash, low white and red blood cells, and muscle pain. I am hoping that once I am only receiving the Herceptin infusions, the side effects will actually lessen.

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