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What exactly does 'stable' imply?

My mom just received the results of her latest cat scan. Her last Taxol/carbo treatment was a little over a month ago and the previous scan was back on Oct 10th.

The doctor today described her as 'stable'. Her nodes shrunk since the last scan and are now within 'normal perimeters' Which was described as potentially cancer free and of a normal size. They said there was no way to be sure they were cancer free, but that is was encouraging

The tumor is her lung has stabilized and is the same size as the last scan. It has shrunk a total of 80% since it was first discovered. They described my mom as symptomatic

We arent familiar with the term stable though.  I was hoping someone here had some insight.

Does anyone know 'why' a tumor stabilizes? Does it mean that this part of the tumor was chemo resistant? 

Is it at all possible that what is left is scar tissue and not cancer? Or is that just wishful thinking? 

How long can people remain stable? I imagine that differs from person to person, but can one remain that way for a relatively long period of time? 

Can a tumor that is stable continue to die/shrink on its own without the help of chemo? If its not growing I'm thinking it can slowly die due to cells life cycles. I'm clueless though

Any insight or experience would be very much appreciated!

As always, I'm hoping for all the best for you and yours


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I think your question would be a good question for ask the experts.

When my Mom started taking Iressa over a year ago, she had innumerable very small nodules throughout both lungs, and a large nodule 2.9 cm, now all the small nodules have gone except 2, but the large nodule hasn't changed, it's still 2.9 cm, so like you I have this hope that it is scar tissue, or if it's not scar tissue, I don't know how long it will stay stable, also, if it is a live tumor that's not growing 'stable' is it because of the drug? or is it a very slow growing tumor? I don't have answers to your questions, because I have similar questions...


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Rana, it sure does sound like we a lot of the same questions! Did I understand right, your mom has been stable for a year or more? That is very encouraging :)

I'll look at the 'ask the experts' section, but I'm not sure how it works

Don, thank you for your reply. I guess cancer does like to grow, so it not growing is a very good sign indeed!

I imagine even doctors might not have the answers to some of these questions.

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Stable is wonderful! The tumor has been stopped. It may be dead. It may not be. But, the treatment stopped it. I like the idea of asking the experts. Charlie has only been stable twice. The first one didn't last. We are still hoping and praying that the current one remains for a long time. Take care and enjoy the current success!

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It took me a while to accept "stable" as a good result. But everyone here convuinced me that, with cancer, no growth is a wonderful result!

I was dx'd in Jan. 2005 (Stage IV) and immediately started Iressa. It beat the cancer back a lot right away and then I stayed "stable" every month. In June I switched to tarceva and have experienced "shrinkage" each month since.

Since one of the toughest characteristics of any cancer is the rapidity of its growth, achieving stability is a pretty great achievement.


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Weird....I posted a reply the other day, but it never appeared

I came back to say that I 'asked the experts' and got a reply

I though Rana might want to go there and read it

The long and the short of it was that

The tumor left might be chemo resistant

the body is fighting the cancer which is canceling out the growth (if I understood right)

Or that it may just in fact be scar tissue!!!! Wouldnt that be wonderful!!!!!

Thanks again for all your help

I hope everyone has something to be thankful for this thanksgiving

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