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Chemo: How to Know if it's Working??


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I bet that sounds like a silly question, but Bob has had his first chemo treatment last Monday and we go and visit the doc again this Monday [please say a prayer for us, we'll be evaluating his MRI to the spine [the PET scan previously picked up hot spots up and down, especially at C6/C7!].

His next chemo treatment is this coming Thursday and when we go to the Doctor Monday I'd like to be able to know what the best questions are to ask to better determine IF the chemo is working?~ Do they routinely take weekly blood tests??? What is the measurement of effectiveness???

Grateful for this forum, and for your continued support.

Hugs, from Beth


DX 12/31 with Stage IV SCLC

Mets to spine, liver, ribs, lymph nodes, pelvic, femur, lung

Started taxol/carboplatin 1/4th(?)

Waiting for MRI of the spine results.....

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Hi Beth,

We're new at this too, so I'm not sure I'll be a lot of help.

After my mom did her first round of chemo they did some more tests to compare it. I don't think they can tell just by seeing you, but then again, I really don't know. Someone else may be able to answer that question better than I.


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From my understanding, I think, to know whether the chemo works is evaluated by the time to time X-ray and CT scan by comparing the tumor shrinkage. I guess this is difficult to know whether the current chemo regimen works or not just only after one treatment. Please hang in there.

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My dad also had X-rays and CT scans half-way thru to see how the chemo was working. I think that previous to this, the only indicators involved blood tests, and how he was feeling. The blood work can be important - e.g., my father has liver mets, so we watched the liver function indicators on the blood tests. Your doctor can tell you if any of the blood work is significant, given the location of the cancer. ( Unfortunately, I've found that doctors are not always willing to spend the time to explain these sorts of things. If your doctor is the impatient kind, don't be afraid to keep asking the questions you need answered.)

I hope your visit goes well.


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Guest Denise D

I could tell within a few days that the chemo was working because the pain in my chest went away and I didn't have to take anymore Vicodin. Also the doctor said my sodium level went back up to normal.

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Follow-ip is determined by the protocol related to the type of chemo. I received chemo every 3 weeks. I had weekly blood counts and a CT Scan every 6 seeks. I was also on a study drug and that is what really determined the protocol.

2-3 days after each chemo session, I would become extremely fatigued, to the point of not being able to get out of bed. After few days my strength would start to come back, about the middle of the week following, I would start to regain most of my activity. By the second week, I was going strong, then I would have chemo again, and start the process all over again.

Twice, while on chemo, I had a chemo session cancelled by one week because of a low blood count. After the second session, I had to have a blood transfusion, and I received an IV of Sodium/potassium chloride 2 days after each chemo.

It is important to keep hydrated, drink as much water as you can. I don't like water by itself, so I drank iced tea, usually 2 liters per day.

Even though this sounds like it was quite a process, it was successful in doing what it was intended to do, arrest the tumors in my lymphatic system.

I now have liver mets, unrelated to the previous mets. I have started a new study, to test the efficacy of a new drug against Iressa. It was a double blind and I would take two pills each day, one a drug, and the other a placebo. I am monitored, every week with blood work and EKG. The new drug has a history of causing deviations in the EKG, of approximately 1 % of those previously tested. Last week my EKG went off, and I have been, temporarily, taken off the study. I will be off study until my EKG returns to normal, which it is expected to do this week. When the EKG returns to normal, I will be started, at 1/2 the original dosage.

They want to restart me on the new drug, as there has been no new growth in my liver tumor, ie the drug was working, except the dose was too high. The tumor did not show any new growth, 4 weeks after I started the trial.

I used all this information to show that follow-up is a must and side effects, if any, have to be dealt with.

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