Living with Leukemia: Know Your Next Steps Early
A cancer diagnosis is devastating and can leave a person bewildered about what happens next. Particularly when first steps in a treatment plan fail.
Because the nature of cancer and cancer care is so complex, it can be difficult for patients to even identify what questions they should be asking their healthcare team. That’s why it is so critical for patients to engage with their doctor in a purposeful way to identify all possible approaches and find a treatment plan that works well for them. At the time of diagnosis, it’s important for patients to address their distinct prognosis, treatment goals, and what the next steps are if the first treatment doesn’t work.
Treatments can fail for a variety of reasons, including patients becoming resistant or intolerant to the therapy. Patients should be aware of the possibility of treatment failure at the time of diagnosis, and initiate conversations with their health teams early to understand what the next steps are following treatment failure.
Karen, a teacher and mother of two, has chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), a type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow. While CML is treatable and can be well controlled, treatment failure due to resistance and intolerance can occur in up to 24% of patients, requiring these individuals to adjust their treatment regimen. Karen needed to partner closely with her healthcare team to determine a treatment plan that was right for her.
The cause of CML treatment failure is variable, and researchers are finding that resistance mutations in patients with CML who receive targeted therapies can be one of the challenges associated with treatment. Therefore, mutation testing is critical to identify the treatment options that could be available for patients following treatment failure.
Dr. Michael Mauro joined me to discuss the considerations surrounding people living with CML, along with Karen, a patient living with the condition. Both shared tips on CML patients having ongoing, open conversations with their healthcare team, especially for those who may experience initial treatment failure. Karen also shared her personal perspective and experience with CML.