SM was 53 years old when her CA 15.3 was elevated (on 15 October 2009). Follow up examination indicated left breast cancer. SM underwent a mastectomy. The histopathology report indicated:
“a Stage 2 (T2NoMx, 5 cm tumour, resected margins, areola and nipple free (of cancer). Left axillary lymph nodes Sinus histiocystosis (7/7).”
SM did not go for any chemotherapy or radiotherapy. She came to seek our help and was started on herbs. She was told to take care of her diet. But it was not to be. SM thought it was easier to follow her doctor’s advice — she took Tamoxifen instead. Preparing and taking herbs was too much of a hassle. Not being able to eat what she liked did not make life that “meaningful.”
Every 6 months, SM came back to her doctor for routine check up. Everything was okay.
On 7 May 2010, her CA 15.3 was at 13.4 (normal). Ultrasound of left axilla on 24 May showed:
“an ill defined 17 x 17 x 23 mm hypoechogenic area and another 18 x 14 x 11 mm well defined hypoechogenic area in the left axilla. Conclusion: metastatic deposit and lymphadenopathy.”
(Note: The first sign of trouble coming. Human nature: Why bother? You are not dying yet!)
On 19 June 2012, SM’s CA 15.3 still remained normal, at 13.7
(Note: Human nature: Nothing serious! Normal. So far so good. This is what you want to always hear!)
On 18 November 2014, SM’s CA 15.3 increased to 76.4. For the first time her CEA also increased, to 7.9. Previously her CEA was always below 5.0 (normal).
Since her CA 15.3 had risen so much, SM was told to stop taking her Tamoxifen.
In spite of her worsening CA 15.3, mammogram of her right breast showed “no evidence of malignancy.” Unfortunately no imaging was ever done on the left side.
USG of abdomen showed everything was fine.
(Note: Human nature: Nothing serious! Mammogram showed no cancer in the breast (but was it the wrong breast that they checked?). Anyway, this is what you want to hear!)
SM came back to see her doctor in March 2015 — another routine check up.
Her CA 15.3 on 10 March 2015 had increased to 173.6. Her CEA also increased to 14.8.
CT scan indicated:
- Enhancing left axillary lymphadenopathy, measuring 1.8 x 18.9 x 14.3 mm.
- Several ill-defined hypodense lesions seen in the left lobe of liver measuring 10 mm. Conclusion: Left axillary lymphadenopathy and liver metastasis.
In view of the above, the doctor suggested that SM undergo chemotherapy. She refused and came to seek our help instead.
Why did SM stopped taking the herbs? She preferred to follow her doctor’s advice. She took Tamoxifen. According to her it was easier — no need to cook the herbs, no need to take care of her diet. So while on Tamoxifen, SM ate what she liked — based on the usual standard medical advice.
Like many others, SM came to us after things got worst. In March 2015, SM was started on herbs. Barely 2 months later, 4 May 2015, her CA 15.3 was 135.4 (reduced from 173.6) and her CEA was at 4.8 (reduced from 14.8).
Often we tell patients. Cancer is about you — your nature and your attitude towards life. We also say, Your life is in your hands. Decide what you want to do. We need to understand that we cannot eat the cake at the same time keep it. You can decide what you want to do but unfortunately, you cannot determine the outcome of your choice.
SM’s cancer showed sign of progression one year after her mastectomy, in 2010. The USG result showed he cancer had spread to her arm pit. She did nothing about it. After all it was not an emergency.
In 2014, her CA 15.3 increased to 76.4 and her CEA increased to 7.9. What did SM do? Nothing. Perhaps the alarm bell was not loud enough.
It was only in 2015, after the cancer had spread to her liver and when the doctor wanted her to go for chemo that she “ran” to us for help. That too is an understandable human attitude!
After talking to SM for a while, I knew in my heart the kind of person I had to deal with. She only wanted to win by the easy way — not prepared to “sacrifice” if she can have her way. That was why she came to us after reaching the “dead end” of her path.
SM took the herbs for about 2 months. Her CEA and CA 15.3 dropped. To patients it is already lucky if the markers do not increase or stabilize. The markers drop? That’s a great blessing. What else do you want?
What say you about the effectiveness of the herbs in this case? Still quackery? Still hocus pocus?
One last note. There is nothing to celebrate here! The drop of CEA and/or CA 15.3 would not last forever. These markers will rise again, if you decide to “misbehave.” So SM is not out of the woods yet.
What have you got to say about these quotations?