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

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 Answer

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.