Surviving sarcoma took a different treatment route than I expected

One weekend in June 2017, I became incredibly ill. I’d faced digestive issues for three years, but this pain was different. By Monday, the pain was so intense I couldn’t eat or sleep. When the medication my doctor prescribed didn’t work, he ordered an ultrasound. They determined my gallbladder was failing but also noticed a small lesion lodged between my small intestine, pancreas and gallbladder. A subsequent CT scan led to a laparoscopic surgery, where my local doctors removed my gallbladder and what they could of the tumor, which was resting on my pancreas. The biopsy results showed it was undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma. Coming to MD Anderson for sarcoma treatment None of my doctors in Colorado had encountered sarcoma before, so they encouraged me to come to MD Anderson for treatment. Even though sarcoma is rare, I knew the statistics associated with the disease are just that – statistics. I’m an individual, and there’s hope for each of us. My husband and I came to MD Anderson in July 2017. Based on what my Colorado surgeon had said, we thought I’d quickly undergo a Whipple procedure, which would remove part of my pancreas, stomach and small intestine, along with my gallbladder. But Dr. Anthony Conley and his colleagues in MD Anderson’s Sarcoma Center reviewed my case and decided to have me start with six rounds of chemotherapy using gemcitabine and docetaxel anhydrous, followed by radiation therapy and the Whipple procedure, if needed. My chemotherapy side effects I experienced intense side effects from the chemotherapy, including folliculitis, thrush, fatigue, nausea, hair loss, loss of my sense of taste, gastrointestinal issues,...

What older cancer patients should know about clinical trials

Clinical trials enable us to discover new and better cancer treatments. They offer patients access to cutting-edge treatments years before they’re available to the general public. And, in many cases, they extend participants’ lives or even eliminate their cancer. Despite clinical trials’ benefits, far fewer adults ages 65 and older participate in them compared to younger patients. But with 50% of new cancer cases in the United States occurring in patients ages 65 and older, it’s important for older patients to consider clinical trials. We spoke with Ishwaria Subbiah, M.D., about misconceptions about clinical trials and what older patients considering clinical trials should know. Here’s what she shared. Why aren’t many older cancer patients enrolling in clinical trials? Many people fear being guinea pigs. But with a clinical trial, you’re not a test subject. You’re a person going through cancer treatment. Everything we do is guided by you, your experience and how you’re feeling. What should older cancer patients consider before enrolling in clinical trials? There’s a lot of responsibility that goes with being on a clinical trial. You’ll have to be in very close contact with your care team, so they can quickly address any changes you experience. You’ll likely need to come into the clinic often – weekly, in some cases – and at times undergo blood draws, scans and biopsies. So consider these requirements with your care team to determine if the potential benefits outweigh the trouble. What challenges do older cancer patients face when enrolling in clinical trials? Over the course of your life, you’ve experienced events that have had a cumulative effect on your...