Supporting women whose lives have been touched by breast cancer


By Ed

As I have secondary cancer, this was one of the chemos which we have used in an effort to control the disease - so my experience is based on this. However, it is also used to treat primary cancers. One of the older chemos, it is nonetheless a very effective and potent drug, which can give excellent results-particularly, I believe, for triple negative patients.

At the outset, I was told to expect to have either 6 or 8 cycles-the standard length of treatment. Overall, it was a perfectly tolerable drug, which did however present one recurrent problem. It is notoriously hard on the bone marrow-and although my blood counts prior to the start of treatment were good, after only one cycle, my platelet count suffered, and started dropping rapidly.

Treatment tends not to go ahead if the platelet count falls below 100 - and without exception, my count was low every time. However, a delay of a week, was enough to bring it back up to a workable level-although it was never much over the cut - off 100 point, necessary for treatment. As far as I know, there are no quick fixes to this - nor supplements which can help boost platelet count - only sufficient time for it to recover made any difference. It’s vital to adhere to this - in case of accident/emergency, if the platelet count isn’t high enough, the patient runs the risk of bleeding out.

This type of delay was a frustration - but didn’t, in itself, as far as I’m aware, cause me any additional symptoms / problems. However, in extreme cases, it’s possible for the patient to have a transfusion of platelets - clearly if the count dropped into the danger zone, this would become a matter of some urgency. Shortly after treatment was completed the platelet count started to rise noticeably, and was soon much improved, so any deficiency is clearly a short lived one.

Other side effects were fortunately few and far between - the usual aches and pains, some nausea in the early days post infusion, and varying degrees of tiredness. All of these issues were easily addressed with the meds which I was given from the oncology unit, and were probably much less troublesome than those experienced on some comparable chemos.

Personally, this was a good chemo for me. A CT scan after cycle 3 showed reduction in the liver tumours. A further scan after 6 cycles showed yet more reduction in these tumours, and stability in the mets in the pleura. We decided to stop after 6 cycles, as it is so hard on the bone marrow-but the results attained were sufficiently good to allow this, which was a huge relief.