Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer
- Clea Shearer, the beloved professional organizer and Netflix star who recently announced her breast cancer diagnosis, is starting chemotherapy soon.
- Chemotherapy for breast cancer uses strong drugs to kill cancer all over the body.
- It’s possible that patients get this treatment to shrink a tumor before surgery, afterward to get rid of any remaining cancer cells (like Clea) or on its own if the patient cannot have surgery.
In a Thursday evening Instagram post, the 40-year-old from Nashville, Tenn., said she’ll be starting chemotherapy for her stage 2 breast cancer in two week — on May 19.Read More
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“Am I nervous? Absolutely. But am I ready? Absolutely. Chemo won’t be fun, but it will be FINE! And when this is all done, I’m going to live to be 95,” she added.
“For now, I’m tackling the next two weeks and getting everything I need organized and ready to go. In the meantime, I walked 3 miles today! Thanks for being with me on this journey.”
Clea Shearer lives in Tennessee with her husband, John, and their two children, Stella, 11, and Sutton, 7. She co-founded The Home Edit with her best friend and business partner Joanna Teplin, 42. Their business became such a success that Netflix opted to make a television show of it. Netflix released the second season of Get Organized with the Home Edit on April 1.
Clea Shearer’s Breast Cancer Diagnosis
Last month, Clea Shearer announced that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer and that she would be undergoing a double mastectomy.
“I found a lump myself (in) the last week of February,” Clea posted to Instagram on April 7. “I had been trying to make an appt with my OB(GYN) for several months, and even when I told them I found a lump, they couldn’t accommodate me. I had to request a mammogram from my general doctor, which led to an ultrasound, and then an emergency triple biopsy.”
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Clea, who’s been sharing regular updates about her health on Instagram, was originally told her cancer was stage 1, but during the nine-hour surgery on Friday, April 8, doctors found cancer in one of her lymph nodes, which elevated the cancer to stage 2. The type of breast cancer Clea was diagnosed with hasn’t been been made public yet, but she said her cancer is “aggressive and fast-moving,” however, “I caught it early.”
She had two tumors, one measuring 2 centimeter in size and the other 3 centimeters (she was originally told each tumor was 1 centimeter). The tumors were sent to a lab in order to determine if Clea will need chemotherapy or radiation, and as stated earlier, it turns out she’ll need both.
According to her Instagram, Clea underwent a second breast cancer surgery recently because “some of my skin tissue is just NOT having it…” She’s currently recovering at home.
Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer
Chemotherapy for breast cancer uses strong drugs to kill cancer all over the body. It’s possible that patients get this treatment to shrink a tumor before surgery, afterward to get rid of any remaining cancer cells (like Clea Shearer) or on its own if the patient cannot have surgery.
Whether or not to have chemotherapy can also be the patient’s choice, depending on their age, the type of cancer they have and its stage.
If the patient’s breast cancer is triple-negative, which means the three main types of receptors — estrogen, progesterone and the HER2 protein — don’t fuel the cancer, chemotherapy is typically the treatment. This is because the cancer does not respond to certain targeted therapies.
Women who are diagnosed with HER2-positive breast cancer have high levels of the HER2 protein on the outside of their cancer cells. For patients with early-stage disease, meaning they have relatively small tumors and no lymph involvement, a number of HER2-directed therapies have dramatically changed the landscape. These include chemotherapy drug trastuzumab (brand name: Herceptin), as well as pertuzumab (brand name: Perjeta), which is a monoclonal antibody used in combination with chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy Side Effects
There are quite a few side effects that come along with chemotherapy treatment; one of the most common, and dreaded, is hair loss. Other side effects of chemotherapy can include nausea, constipation and neuropathy.
“It’s one of the things that people can see from the outside that people may know that you are ill,” Vivian Ruszkiewicz, a nurse practitioner with OhioHealth, a not-for-profit system of hospitals and health care providers in Columbus, Ohio, previously told SurvivorNet, “and that poses a lot of stress for patients.”
There are a large number of chemotherapy treatments that cause hair loss, but not all of them, she added. Others cause hair thinning. (If you’re concerned about your hair, talk to your doctor or nurse practitioner about what to expect from your chemotherapy treatment.)
Ruszkiewicz said that some people who only experience partial hair loss still choose to wear a wig, like many people who lose their hair completely, before chemotherapy so that they’re prepared and “can feel more like themselves during chemotherapy.”
She adds that hair loss begins about three to four weeks after your first chemotherapy treatment; you could start to see some hair regrowth about four to six weeks after your last treatment.
“Then it will kind of continue from there, as long as you aren’t being treated with another medication that might cause hair loss,” she added. “But in general, most people do have a resumption of hair growth, and can slowly over time put away their wigs and scarves, and are able to kind of go back to what they expected in terms of their hair growth.”
In other words, remember that hair loss is temporary!