Gemcitabine for breast cancer can be a very effective treatment, especially when used in combination with paclitaxel. In addition to being used in breast cancer treatment, this medication may be prescribed for ovarian, pancreatic, and certain other cancers. The response rates for these cancers can be different. Patients who want information on their specific prognosis can ask a doctor, as individual factors in a patient's case may influence the outcome.
A doctor may recommend gemcitabine for breast cancer as a first or second line therapy. When it is prescribed first, it is used before other medications, usually in a situation where a doctor thinks the standard treatment would not meet a patient's needs. Second line therapies are used after an initial treatment fails and the cancer continues to develop. This medication is primarily used in cases of metastatic breast cancer.
Patient outcomes can depend on a variety of factors, which may include the stage of the cancer as well as its characteristics. Cancer that is more advanced is also usually harder to treat, as spreading tumors may not respond as well to medication. Some cancers tend to be more sensitive to drugs like gemcitabine for breast cancer. The doctor may recommend a biopsy before treatment to determine which therapies would be most effective. This can allow care providers to tailor a treatment plan to the cancer for maximum results.
When used alone, gemcitabine for breast cancer can be effective in as many as one third of patients, while it is less effective as a second line therapy. The lack of efficacy in second line therapy is not necessarily the fault of the medication. Patients undergoing a second round of chemotherapy with a new medication have a lower survival rate because the cancer is aggressive and their bodies may be under stress. Combination therapy with paclitaxel can double the response rate, making it advisable to use both medications.
One advantage to gemcitabine for breast cancer is that it and paclitaxel are less toxic than some chemotherapy medications. Other drugs may cause severe side effects that can make chemotherapy intolerable and may put the patient at risk of complications. The availability of drugs that offer effective and aggressive tumor treatment with lower side effects is a significant advantage for cancer patients. While on these medications, patients may experience some discomfort, but it may not be as severe as with other drugs. Especially for patients undergoing second line therapy who are worried about feeling ill during treatment, fewer side effects can be a significant consideration.