Where to start – I had scans on Monday, March 7. The fantastic news is that both my bone scan and CT scan were stable! What does that mean? Based on the imaging it looks like the cancer is quiet in my skeleton and it does not appear to have spread elsewhere. Yay! The oncologist uses the scans as the measure of how well the medication is working so – we stay the course. Same medication, go back monthly for checks. Scans again in 3 months.
Every month I also get blood drawn for a tumor marker test (CA 27-29). The blood tests may or may not be reliable as an indicator of cancer activity. My oncologist orders this test but doesn’t make treatment decisions based on it alone.
A CA 27-29 value of under 38 means no active cancer. At diagnosis I was 122. As I’ve mentioned previously, my numbers dropped to a low of 42 in February of 2020 and have been rising steadily since then. This past month it jumped a lot. The most it ever had. I’m not going to lie, it freaked me out. That number is now at 185. (Note, numbers can vary wildly, I know some MBC patients with values around 3,000.)
Why worry about this if the data might not be reliable?
Well, I have invasive lobular breast cancer. The cancer is missing an enzyme and so instead of forming in a mass, it forms in a string. This means that lobular breast cancer doesn’t generally show up on scans.
So, is the tumor marker rising because it’s just not reliable for me? Or is it rising because the lobular cancer is active but just not visible on scans?
We just simply don’t know. Lobular breast cancer is a very distinct subtype and also very understudied. As a result, it is treated just like the more common ductal cancer.
In the meantime, I continue to work, walk and spend a lot of time with the family. We took a few days to go up to the mountains to ski with family and it was fantastic to be able to go do that.
Take care of yourselves. Get vaccinated and boosted and really live today!