Indolent cancer



Posted November 25th, 2008 by Jane

In the beginning in October 2003 my cancer was described as ‘aggressive’, and so it was again after surgery, after the jackpot of a 5cm tumour and 23 lymph nodes with cancer and a ‘triple negative’ pathology (of which more on another post). In those days I got mightily irritated by the good news stories of 80% survival rates and ‘early’ breast cancer being treatable. My cancer was never early..it was indeed very late..having been misdiagnosed by the incompetent Dr Lan subsequently found guilty by the GMC of professional misconduct in 2007.

But here I am five years later and still alive. I have watched so many come after me with aggressive cancers, so many long dead. It was the man at the Marsden who named my cancer as ‘persistent and indolent’ back in August, and indolent was the word my oncologist used last night.

Now things are pretty bad but they are not as bad as they could be. Indolent is better than aggressive…though the end result will be the same. I keep being told also that my ‘loco/regional’ recurrence, my ‘presentation’ is not rare but it is unusual. Generally when breast cancer spreads it spreads to distant organs…bones, lungs, liver, brain being the commonest sites. It’s secondary, it’s metastatic, it’s terminal. A local recurrence is ‘less serious’, meaning the cancer has returned in the breast or along the scar line. Many people are cured of local recurrences. Then there are regional recurrences…cancer in the neck and the chest wall and the intra mammary lymph nodes and supra and infra clavicular lymph nodes…and that’s where my cancer is..spilling out of lymph nodes into soft tissue…I can see the swelling, feel the hardness. The text books don’t say much about this kind of recurrence; nor the internet; the information from breast cancer charities almost entirely absent. So for me it has been a lonely and hard comprehension that my cancer has no possibility of being cured, that it will kill me. Everyone expects it to spread, but last scan in August it still hadn’t…my lungs look a bit dodgy but still no confirmation it is there…but indolently the cancer is still growing, and growing and growing. And it can kll me even if it never gets to those distant organs.

I’m in the odd position of having in the scheme of things relatively non extensive spread but being nearly out of treatment options. (what with being triple negative)