At St. Stamford Modern Cancer Hospital Guangzhou, Ms. Guo, is known as an amusing patient who utters this kind of statement, “Liver has close relationship with gallbladder. Lung is connected with heart. My liver has tumor, so ‘my gallbladder is broken’. And my lung has tumor also, so my heart is hurt.” One never knows that this jolly potbellied woman in her slim figure is a triple negative breast cancer patient for 15 years now.
“In breast cancer types, triple negative breast cancer is so difficult to treat. Generally, those who are diagnosed with this kind of cancer will not live for more than 5 years. But she has lived with cancer for 15 years.” Doctors from St. Stamford Modern Cancer Hospital are amazed upon learning the condition of this woman. According, triple negative breast cancer is an aggressive one with poor prognosis and tends to get local recurrence and distant metastasis.
Ms. Guo is a tough and optimistic woman who lives in Singapore. People are surprised at how she battled against cancer for these 15 years. As for her, “It is not a big deal. Cancer is just like a Child. When it is obedient, I play with it. But when it is naughty, I will ask help from hospital to scare it.”
First Diagnosis with Cancer
In 2001, Ms. Guo gave birth to her second child. As an engineer, Ms. Guo worked harder to give better life for her Children than before. However, more than 3 months after her child was born, Ms. Guo faced the biggest challenge in her life.
It was in May 2011 when Ms. Guo detected a hard lump in her right breast with the size of 4cm big. After the tests, she was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer stage 2. With more concern about her baby, Ms. Guo focused on Singaporean doctors’ advice, had surgery and religiously maintaining oral hormonal therapy for 5 years.
Cancer Recurred for Many Times
Indeed, cancer came back and worse, it has metastasized in her liver. Ms. Guo said, “In my regular following-up, doctor found out a small tumor about 0.8 cm big in my right breast, another one about 5 cm in my liver.” She took surgery again to remove the tumor in right breast and remove a part of her liver. After surgery, Ms. Guo got better and backed into normal life again.
Ms. Guo thought that it was the end of cancer, but cancer recurred again for the second time. “The tumor in my liver grew to 4 cm big once, and then 12 cm, the biggest.” Doctor recommended her chemotherapy again, but refused. She said, “In the last time of chemotherapy, tumor didn’t shrunk even by 1cm. I didn’t want to take chemotherapy anymore.” So she decided to seek other therapies.
Go Abroad for Comprehensive Treatment
Ms. Guo learned from Malaysian friends that China has more advanced cancer treatment and was finally admitted to St. Stamford Modern Cancer Hospital Guangzhou (MCHG). Assessment revealed that her liver tumor grew to 14cm, she was in pain and her abdomen was distended. Further tests showed metastases in lung as well.
Ms. Guo was under the multidisciplinary team (MDT) received cryotherapy and interventional therapy. She stated, “Here, there are many treatments options, such as nanoknife, interventional therapy, cryotherapy, etc. The therapies are targeting the tumor precisely, so side effects are few.” Two months after treatments, Ms. Guo went for follow-up. CT scan remarkably showed that her tumor shrunk by 2 cm. She said, “After every time of treatment, my tumor almost shrunk for 2-3 cm.” By far, Ms. Guo has taken 5 times of cryotherapy, 3 times of microwave ablation and 8 times of intervention therapy and is currently in a stable condition now.
For normal people, 15 years flies easily. But for a cancer patient, it’s a lifelong nightmare. So, how did Ms. Guo went through all these 15 years? She said, “It’s not a big deal. My children are too young, the elder is 19 years old, the other is 15 years old now. I don’t want them to lose their mother. On the other side, positive attitude is also very important. In the past 15 years, I treated myself as a normal person without any worries of my disease. I have the normal life as before.”
It was said that Ms. Guo was very strong. She gets herself involved in various social activities, goes shopping, singing and dancing, etc, even she felt physically uncomfortable. Ms. Guo said, “I still remember my experience that I took part in one cooking competition. My back was in serious pain, but I swallowed the pain to finish the competition because I made promise to my friend and I must keep it.” Ms. Guo has broad interests in many things, including traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), Japanese, drawing, etc. When talking about why she loves TCM, she said, “It is because my arthralgia was cured by TCM. I believed in TCM.”
Triple-negative breast cancer means that breast cancer cells are tested negative for estrogen receptors (ER-), progesterone receptors (PR-), and HER2 (HER2-). This kind of breast cancer is more common in young patients with poor prognosis. 5-year survival rate is less than 15%. With Ms. Guo’s case, oncologist from St. Stamford Modern Cancer Hospital Guangzhou gives some advice to cancer patients: Firstly, cancer patients can live well with cancer; secondly, triple-negative breast cancer patients should not give up and keep faith to take suitable treatments; additionally, common breast cancer 5-year survival rate is higher than 50% at present, so breast cancer patients should take chance to get good treatment effect. (Attention: We respect the patient’s requirement and privacy, so this patient’s photos and name are not included here.)
*Surgery, in addition to the appropriate chemotherapy and radiotherapy, are effective in treating early cancer, but certain patients in late stage of cancer may not be tolerate surgery well as they can be relatively weak. A combination of carefully planned minimally invasive therapy, chemotherapy or radiotherapy can effectively reduce the side effects and discomfort of treatment and may help patient get better efficacy.