October 2014 Ask the Expert: Research and Treatments for Metastatic Breast Cancer
Living with metastatic breast cancer often means changing treatments from time to time. Your personal needs, medicines you’ve had in the past and symptoms and side effects will be taken into account when it’s time to choose what’s next. Knowing your options and what research is in the pipeline can help you have better conversations with your doctor. In the month of October, Living Beyond Breast Cancer expert Katherine Tkackzuk, MD, answered your questions about treatment options for metastatic disease, how to participate in clinical trials and what research is on the horizon,
Remember: we cannot provide diagnoses, medical consultations or specific treatment recommendations. This service is designed for educational and informational purposes only. The information is general in nature. For specific healthcare questions or concerns, consult your healthcare provider because treatment varies with individual circumstances. The content is not intended in any way to substitute for professional counseling or medical advice
Dr. Tkaczuk: Yes, there is definitely a benefit to getting a second opinion. If you get one, I recommend you try to go to a specialist who is subspecialized in breast cancer and is involved in clinical trials.
I do also believe there is a benefit from seeing an oncologist in person. Seeing him or her in person gives the oncologist an opportunity to see you personally, assess your clinical symptoms and examine you. These are important factors in overall decision making in medical oncology.
Dr. Tcakzuk: I do not see an advantage in third and fourth opinions. I feel that, sometimes, getting more than two opinions, or several opinions, may only delay treatments and not necessarily impact the final recommendations and treatment approach.
Dr. Tcakzuk: Almost certainly yes, but more information about your breast cancer is needed to determine if there are any trials available for you specifically. Eligibility criteria vary for different trials and are based on your past treatments for breast cancer and the estrogen and HER2 status of your cancer, to name a few. Try asking your oncologist if he or she knows of trials you might be eligible for.
Dr. Tcakzuk: Currently there are clinical trials with PARP inhibitors given with chemotherapy. Eligibility criteria and the study location would have to be reviewed and determined. Ask your daughter-in-law to inquire with her medical oncologist and ask them to check on clinicaltrials.gov to find specific trials that are enrolling.
Dr. Tcakzuk: The length of survival with metastatic breast cancer varies widely and depends on many prognostic factors, such as the location in the body, type of breast cancer and response to treatments; however, some patients live for many years with metastatic breast cancer.