Weighing the Benefits of Chemotherapy

What are the benefits of chemotherapy?

benefits of chemotherapyFeeling uneasy about having to do chemotherapy? Wondering what the advantages and disadvantages are? You’re not alone. Some patients don’t need chemotherapy while others do. There are a number of factors that doctors look at to determine your treatment path. Dr. Kelly Shimabukuro sheds some light on these factors in this video. Every cancer is different and needs a specific treatment. Matching the type of cancer you have to the procedures available is what doctors do best. Learn more about how the process by watching the video below.

Video Transcripts

Kelly A. Shimabukuro, MD: I use a couple of tools to help my patients weigh the benefits of chemotherapy in terms of reducing their risk for recurrence and again it depends on the cancer, so if we are talking specifically about colon cancer, I use the data that has been shown to show benefits of chemotherapy in certain patients and I explain that to the patients. So, the discussions I have with patients are very case specific and it is never a one size fits all and so, what I tell patients especially my stage 2 or my stage 3 colon cancer patients, I tell them what the data shows and that is from large scale clinical trials that have been done in what we call the adjuvant or this is after surgery when you think you are cured and we want to try and give you the best chance for cure.

For more information watch “Why Chemotherapy is Used for Colon Cancer Patients” with Dr. Madappa Kundranda.

So that’s what I consider adjuvant chemotherapy is doing chemotherapy when there is no visible disease and the way I describe the benefits of chemotherapy are a couple of tools, one is an online tool called adjuvant online and what that allows me to do is, it allows me to put in certain specific things about a patient like their age, their gender, their other medical problems and also the stage of their cancer and what it does is it gives you an estimate of risk for recurrence, there are a amount of people who on a scale of from 0-100, who may have recurrence at five years or who may die of their cancer at five years, those are two measures that we look at and it also gives an estimate of the benefit of chemotherapy and so, in certain cancers that might be 3%, in certain cancers yet that might be 15% and so, it is a rough estimate of estimating what the benefit of chemotherapy would be because a lot of people want to have concrete numbers, they want to know what is my benefit going to be, but I also give them the caveat that this is derived from population studies and it does not necessarily tell me what their exact risk may be and so that’s where in certain type stages of cancer like stage 2 colon cancer, I use the Oncotype DX colon assay, which is a test that can be sent on the tumor sample to look for, what it does is it gives you a score that helps you to know what is your risk of the cancer recurring.

You can make decisions about chemotherapy based upon what the likelihood of your risk for recurrence would be. So, those are two tools I use and then it is discussing with the patient what may seem, what their other medical problems are and that is what I use to help people weigh in the decision of doing chemotherapy versus not doing chemotherapy.

Kelly Shimabukuro
Dr. Kelly Shimabukuro is currently the Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego department of medicine. She specializes in the management of gastrointestinal cancers including colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, esophageal cancer, hepatobiliary cancer and anal cancer. She has a particular interest in hepatocellular cancer and is working closely with our multidisciplinary hepatology team in the management of these patients. She has specialized training in clinical trial design and implementation and is integrating this into her practice.


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