Is continuing chemo after the tumor is gone normal?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My sister was told two weeks ago that her cancer had completely disappeared. She had 12 tumors and they are gone, but they still have her on chemo for another three months...is this normal?

Expert Answer

Andrew Putnam, M.D. is a Palliative Care physician at Smilow Cancer Center at Yale New Haven Hospital and Yale University.

Yes, it is common to continue the course of chemotherapy after the tumors are gone. There is a good chance that they are not exactly gone, but simply are no longer visible because what is left is very very small. As with antibiotics and infection, it is generally important to finish the entire planned course to give the patient the best chance of getting rid of the cancer so that it does not come back. Nothing is guaranteed but continuing the chemotherapy, if the patient is able to tolerate it, is likely to give a more lasting success.