Pathology – What it means …

I’ve gotten pretty good at interpreting what the pathology reports say, but I’m not great at what it means.

Just before my oncologist walked into the room I said to Scott – “what I’m afraid of is that he will recommend more chemotherapy”.

My oncologist walked into the room and said that he would be presenting my case at the case conference the next day. The case conference is where all the cancer specialists get together and collectively try to figure out the best course of action. The question was, do I need more chemotherapy after surgery, and if so, what chemotherapy?

I actually didn’t think to get confirmation as to why my oncologist thought I might need more chemo – but I’m guessing it is because of the R1 results. This is the first time my oncologist mentioned the bilateral nature of my cancer and how bilateral cancer is rare – which is in part why they don’t have clear path for treatment. In addition, they have only been doing neo-adjuvant chemo for 15-years – so again, longer term outcomes are not completely clear. I’m pretty sure that if we were only dealing with L1, the idea of more chemo would not have been suggested.

The key reason this question mattered now is that it determined whether or not my port would be removed on my upcoming surgery on December 17th. If more chemo is needed, then the port stays, otherwise it can be removed (making the breast and plastic surgeons jobs easier).

Fortunately, on Friday afternoon I got word “Case conference discussed your case. No more chemo indicated, we will take out your port at the time of surgery. You will be recommended to take 5 years of Tamoxifen after surgery. No more chemo!” I broken down in tears after reading this. 

So yay on the no more chemo. I’m cautiously optimistic that the recommendation will remain the same after my next surgery when the full breast pathology is available, but I’m still nervous about the R1 result – the chemo didn’t really work on that tumor, does it mean that I’m destined for recurrence? Or will the surgery be enough to kick this cancer?

Looking back at the data about complete pathological response in neo-adjuvant chemo, the left breast response is good – it was pretty close to a complete pathological response and may very well have been one had I completed the three additional doses of taxol. So that looks good. That fact that I did not have a clear indication of response in the right breasts is a predictor of absolutely nothing (since the tumor wasn’t as big nor growing as fast – complete pathological response isn’t an indicator of prognosis) … that is, it in no way predicts whether or not my cancer will metastasize.  It is pretty much a roll of the dice … only time will tell.


  • Becky

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