If the tumor is gone, do we still have to finish the chemo?

3 answers | Last updated: Oct 21, 2016
Rdm asked...

My husband was diagnosed w/NHL Lymphoma (agressive, Diffuse Large B-cell)in January of 2010. He has undergone 4 chemo treatments and on 4/28/2010 underwent a PET scan. Yesterday, it was relayed to us by doctors that there is no sign of the cancer and the tumor is completely gone. The doctors are suggesting we still continue two more sessions of chemo. We are having second thoughts about this as we are starting to see the adverse affects of chemo in the body. Should we rethink these additional chemo treatment sessions?

Expert Answers

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

Stopping chemo if the tumor is gone is very tempting but may not be the best course of action. All scans, including PET scans can only see down to a certain size. There certainly could be cancer present as tumor cells or something even larger but too small to be seen by scans. It may be important to continue the full course of treatment to give the chemotherapy the best chance of getting rid of the cancer. It is hard to be sure but in most cases finishing the course is the desired result if the patient is able to tolerate the treatment.

Community Answers

Kittyhawk answered...

My parents faced the same decision just about this time last year. They decided to go with the one last chemo treatment remaining. It almost killed my 76 y/o father. Basically it was the straw that broke the camel's back. His white count just about vanished. He developed septsis. He was in a coma in ICU on a ventillator from June-October. He was in high level rehab for 2 months weaning off the ventillator. then he want to "regular" rehab to learn to walk, etc again. He came home the beginning of May. He still needs a walker - even for short distances. He has terrible neuropathy in his feet. My parents will be filing bankruptcy due to the bills that Medicare didn't pay. I don't know what the right decision is about continuing chemo in your case, but I would weigh it carefully.

Lorrdel answered...

I feel it is up to the individual and how the survivor is feeling physically at the time. Most of the time cancer treatments have a residual effect on the body. The more treatments the patient receives, the harder is on the body. I have had cancer three times. The third time was a re-currant NHL, after several different protocols and many treatments, I was told the cancer was gone. The oncologist however, said I needed to continue all the round of chemo. Needless to say the more chemo I took, the sicker I became. I feel if the individual is not overly weak or sick, he/she may want to continue with treatment. If the patient is extremely ill, he/she may want to opt out of more chemo. Everyone is different.