Opting for Plan BIt’s amazing what a different diagnosis – and options for treatment – can do for a cancer patient.
Just ask Glenn Arntzen. A 50-year-old IT executive, he had to face one of the most insidious of cancers – lymphoma. It started with a bump in the armpit. A bit of pain. Eventually, he received a diagnosis, and a serious prognosis along with it from his health care provider right around Christmas 2012. “Your mind is really scrambled,” Glenn recalled.
For a single person, a serious illness is especially worrisome. Treasured self-reliance crumbles under the demands of a disease with a life of its own.
Luckily for Glenn, he had siblings and the team at Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin in his corner. At the urging of his sister, Glenn reached out to the Clinical Cancer Center for another opinion. There, Timothy Fenske, MD, MS, a Medical College of Wisconsin hematologist/oncologist, and the Leukemia, Lymphoma and Myeloma Program team made a definitive diagnosis. With all the information in hand, Glenn could weigh his options, choose his treatment, and mentally make the shift from self-reliance to reliance on others – health care experts – to guide him through his illness. “There was hope after all,” Glenn said.
And no time to waste. “There are more than 60 types of lymphoma,” Dr. Fenske said, “and the symptoms can masquerade as other conditions.” It isn’t unusual for patients to see several different physicians. Expert biopsy review by a pathologist with specialized training is key; such focused specialists are few.
Dr. Fenske recommended that Glenn consider a study at the Clinical Cancer Center that is part of a nationwide clinical trial adding a sixth medication to the standard five for patients in a higher-risk group for lymphoma. The study is investigating whether the six-drug regimen will result in higher remission rates.
Glenn was in the high risk group of patients. He discussed the choices – standard treatment, trial treatment – with his sister and brother, his lifelines. He quickly opted for the trial Dr. Fenske recommended, his personal Plan B. “The benefits outweighed the potential negative results, especially regarding remission,” Glenn said. During the five-month course of treatment, Glenn continued to work, missing only six days.
His advice for those who are considering a trial? Quite simply: “I looked at the pros and cons, and saw an opportunity.”
Follow-up: Glenn will be seen every three months for the first year, then his appointments will taper off through 2018, a schedule similar to that in standard care.
On Glenn’s team: Timothy Fenske, MD, and Arielle Baim, clinical research coordinator, were part of the team that helped guide Glenn through his outpatient treatment.
Last Review Date: July 25, 2013
Online Editor(s): Shannon Krause