Article by: Amina Nasari & Alaha Nasari
Image by: Hope Chest for Breast Cancer
LET’S START WITH THE BASICS…
A woman’s breast consists of fat, connective tissue, and thousands of tiny glands that produce
milk for breastfeeding after it has gone through puberty. The body’s cells multiply
uncontrollably in cancer, and this excessive growth is what causes cancer.
There Are Two Types of Breast Cancer:
Ductal carcinoma: This is the most common type. It starts in the milk duct. Lobular carcinoma: This begins in the lobules.
Breast Cancer Can be Either Invasive or Non-Invasive
Invasive breast cancer occurs when cancer cells burst out from inside the ducts or lobules and intrude nearby tissues, increasing the possibility of spreading to other parts of the body. Noninvasive breast cancer exists when the cancer remains inside the area it originated and has not yet broken out. In time, these cells may evolve into invasive breast cancer cells.
Warning Signs for Breast Cancer
➢ Change in the size or shape of the breast
➢ Swelling, redness or darkening of the skin of the breast
➢ Sore or rash on the nipple
➢ A pain in the armpits or breast that does not go away
➢ Lump or hard knot inside the breast
Treatments are decided by the type of breast cancer, the stage of the cancer, reactivity to
hormones, and the patient’s overall health.
Lumpectomy: removal of tumor and small perimeter of healthy tissue
Mastectomy: removal of ducts, lobules, nipple, fatty tissue, areola, and part of skin
Sentinel node biopsy: removal of one lymph node
Axillary lymph node dissection: removal of several lymph nodes in the armpit
Reconstruction: recreating the beast to look similar to the other breast
Radiation Therapy: Controlled doses of radiation are directed at the tumor to eliminate the cancer cells. It is used along with chemotherapy about a month after surgery.
Chemotherapy: Medications known as cytotoxic drugs are used to destroy cancer cells if there is a high risk of spread. Chemotherapy may be issued before surgery to reduce the tumor in size and make removal easier if the tumor is large. Chemotherapy can also treat cancer that has spread to other parts of the body and can lessen some symptoms.
Hormone Blocking Therapy: This treatment is used after surgery to prevent spread in
hormone-sensitive breast cancers, known as estrogen receptive and progesterone receptor
positive cancers. Hormone therapy may be used to reduce the size of the tumor.
Biological Treatment: Drugs such as Herceptin, Tykerb, and Avastin are used to target and destroy specific types of breast cancer.
Life After Breast Cancer Surgery
Breast cancer will change your life in ways that last well after treatment ends. From family relationships to exercise and eating habits, life will be very different as you make the transition from breast cancer treatment to breast cancer survival. Despite the challenges, it is more than possible to rebuild a happy and healthy life after breast cancer.
Emotional Effects of Treatment
It is normal to have different feelings after treatment ends. You may be relieved and joyful. Or, you may feel sad, tired, and uneasy. It may take time to recover physically and emotionally. Take the time you need before doing too much, and ease back into your activities slowly.
How You Will Look After Surgery
Your surgeon will do everything they can to make sure your scars are as discreet as possible. Eventually, they will fade. It may be difficult to accept changes to your body that you are not happy with. It is best to wait one or two days before you first look in the mirror after your operation. Your first view may be a shock so it might be best if you have someone there to support you.
Watching for Recurrence
Cancer returns because small areas of cancer cells may stay undetected in the body. These cells may increase in number over time. It is important to talk with a doctor familiar with your medical history about your risk of recurrence and treatment options. This may help you feel more prepared and help you make decisions about your treatment if the cancer does return.
Make Healthy Choices
You can feel better both physically and emotionally by practicing healthy habits such as eating nutritious meals, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep. Avoid unhealthy habits such as smoking and drinking.
Join a Support Group
Support groups give you the chance to share your feelings and fears with others who have had the same experience. This will allow you to exchange helpful suggestions and information. Being part of a support group will create a sense of belonging that will help you feel less alone and more understood.
Talk to People Close to You
The most effective source of support is family and friends. You may be afraid of how they will think of you and how they will be affected. But your loved ones will not see you differently as a person. It can help to share your feelings and to talk out loud about your concerns so you can figure out the reasons behind your fears. You can also try writing down your thoughts. Focus on hobbies and other activities that you enjoy.