• Is there a test or procedure that tells whether the chemo is working?

    Asked by papayagirl on Saturday, June 23, 2012

    Is there a test or procedure that tells whether the chemo is working?

    My oncologist says no but I thought I read something about that on What Next.

    8 Answers from the Community

    8 answers
    • mamajltc's Avatar

      My husband has a scan every other month (stage 4 colon cancer), and also has a tumor marker

      almost 9 years ago
    • CaptainBob's Avatar

      About the only thing I could suggest is a pet scan. They are very expensive and not effective for some types of cancer. You should ask your oncologist about this. ;

      almost 9 years ago
    • PhillieG's Avatar

      They usually monitor people by CT scans. This way they have a picture of (hopefully) the shrinking of tumors.
      Stage IV Colon Cancer

      almost 9 years ago
    • judalou's Avatar

      With ovarian cancer a blood test every month showed my tumor marker number dropped from3500 to 33 in 7 months. Now we are going for optimal surgery removal. Pet scan last month also was helpful for surgeons to decide on this.

      almost 9 years ago
    • attypatty's Avatar

      Dear papayagirl:

      My oncologist told me the same thing. Some cancers have tumor "markers" - usually proteins - that circulate in the body and can be detected through testing, like the PSA level test for prostate cancer.

      According to the American Cancer Society, there is no tumor marker test for breast cancer. There is a test that can test for certain proteins but it is not recommended as it does not make any difference in treatment. Here is a good article on the subject:


      The best technology available for breast cancer is tumor testing which can predict if the chemotherapy will be effective. So we endure chemotherapy on the assumption that science knows that chemotherapy will kill cancer cells lurking anywhere in our bodies. We have to act on that belief, even though there is no way to see inside to be sure. Chemotherapy is meant to kill the microscopic disease or circulating tumor cells that may have been thrown off by the primary tumor.

      Like you, I wish with all my heart there was a magic crystal ball that could look inside and tell me, "It's all gone!" But that will never happen, so we live in hope.
      Keep faith and
      Fight On,

      almost 9 years ago
    • leepenn's Avatar

      Hey NJ - As I understand it (for breast cancer), when people have chemo BEFORE surgery, they get information about how the tumor responds to chemo. When people have chemo AFTER surgery, they do not.

      Even if you know whether the tumor does respond to the chemo, we still don't have that magic ball that says cancer will or will not return... Oh how I wish we did!

      I personally feel like the uncertainty is one of the hardest things about cancer. Now that my treatment is completely finished, ... well... no pun intended... but WHAT NEXT? Right?

      So, I am doing the things that people believe reduces the chances of recurrence (most of these, I was doing already)... Dietary things (no animal fats or proteins) and exercise (I am training in hopes of returning to competitive fitness)... Also, I'm trying to reduce stress... but that's a tough one for me.

      Best wishes,

      almost 9 years ago
    • nancyjac's Avatar

      The problem is that is is no control case. In other words, to know if/how/to what extent chemo is working, it would require a clone of you with the exact same cancer, upon which there is no chemo done. Then after chemo, the size of the chemo treated tumor could be compared with the non-chemo treated tumor via a CT scan. Doing a CT scan before and after chemo can measure if the tumor has shrunk, grown, or stayed the same, but even that doesn't tell you if the chemo is working. For that you have to know how the tumor would have behaved without chemo. So for instance, if the post chemo CT scan shows no change, that really doesn't say either that the chemo "worked" or it didn't, since you don't if that would have been the case without chemo. In other words, without chemo, the tumor might have grown and/or metastisized or it might not have.

      almost 9 years ago
    • akiko's Avatar

      I like attypatty's answer. Not all cancers have their own tumor markers. Mine does not. All my onc suggested is to have CT scan regularly to see whether the tumor is shrinking or not.

      almost 9 years ago

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