Oral chemotherapy gives cancer patients better quality of life

Published: Mar. 3, 2021 at 6:33 AM CST
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - For many years, cancer patients have used chemotherapy as a means of treating and beating the disease. Typically, chemotherapy is administered through an IV at a clinic or hospital setting. New research is leading to a different way for patients to get their treatments from the comfort of their own homes.

Lynn Wendt has an upbeat attitude, but when you hear for the third time that your breast cancer is back, it’s hard to stay on the bright side.

“There was the scary part that every three years it was returning,” Wendt said. “I thought, ‘well, what’s the prognosis gonna be the next time?’”

The first time she was diagnosed with cancer, Wendt had a mastectomy and underwent typical chemotherapy. Living 35 miles from Eau Claire’s Cancer Center at Marshfield Clinic. Her sessions and travel would take up an entire day.

“Somebody would usually always go with me,” said Wendt. “If it wasn’t my husband, it was usually one of my daughters or my sister that went with. It was a few hours of sitting there, going through that.”

The second time she was diagnosed, Wendt underwent radiation. Three years later, it was back again.

“My third time around they told me it was stage 4 metastatic breast cancer,” said Wendt.

This time though, her doctor had a new plan of attack.

“They started me on an oral chemo pill, and I have been doing remarkable with all that,” said Wendt. “Now I am, from 2013 to now, I am like 7 years out.”

“Targeted therapy can work against hormones and there are several oral drugs that you can use against that,” said Dr. Tanawattancharoen, a hematologist and oncologist at Marshfield Clinic. “Also there are specific targets to look at the cell cycle which is now available by oral medications. When we have the information based on the clinical trial and research to know that these oral agents work better than the previous traditional treatment, that will become the patient’s first treatment option.”

Not only has the chemo pill given Wendt a longer recovery than ever before, she’s also been giving a better quality of life.

“It’s a 21 day cycle that you’re on and then you’re off of it for a week,” said Wendt. “Partway through that 21 day cycle, I taste, sometimes things will taste a little different to me for a few days but that’s tolerable.”

“It is convenient. Patients can do the treatment by themselves at home,” said Dr. Tanawattacharoen. “We can educate patients best on what side effects to look into so it minimizes the amount of time spent in the office to get the injection treatment. It gives them the ability to control their schedule.

“In today’s world, I feel like we are living in a better time if you’re going to go through breast cancer,” said Wendt. “I think I’m probably even better off than I was in the beginning 14 years ago with the knowledge and everything that they have now.”

Cancer is obviously different for every patient. If you think oral chemotherapy might be the best option for you, talk to your medical provider.

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