Will My Breast Cancer Treatment Affect My Ability To Have A Baby
Women of childbearing age who are being treated for breast cancer may be concerned about the impact on their ability to conceive a child in the future. Treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy or a combination of the two may affect fertility.
Chemotherapy may affect the functioning of the ovaries, reducing the number or quality of eggs. These anti-cancer drugs may also cause infertility in women who havent started menopause . The likelihood of infertility may depend on the type of chemotherapy drugs used, the dose given and your age.
Radiation therapy kills cancer cells by stopping or reducing their growth and division. Because radiation sometimes passes through healthy tissues, organs near the cancer site may be affected, potentially causing temporary or permanent infertility, especially if the radiation was delivered directly to the pelvic region.
You may want to consider your options for preserving fertility before starting treatment and discuss your questions and concerns with your oncologist.
Relationships With Friends And Family
It’s not always easy to talk about cancer, either for you or your family and friends. You may sense that some people feel awkward around you or avoid you.
Being open about how you feel and what your family and friends can do to help may put them at ease. However, don’t be afraid to tell them that you need some time to yourself, if that’s what you need.
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- Healthtalkonline: How breast cancer affects families
Causes Of Breast Cancer
Doctors do not know the exact causes of breast cancer. But there are risk factors;that can increase your chance of developing it.
Having one or more risk factors does not mean you will get breast cancer. Also, having no risk factors does not mean you will not develop it.
Breast cancer is likely to be caused by a combination of different risk factors, rather than just one.
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Where Can Breast Cancer Spread
Breast cancer metastasizes to different areas or organs in the body. The most common parts of the body breast cancer spreads to are the bones, brain, liver, and lungs. Spreading means the cancer cells broke away from the original tumor inside the breast and traveled through the bloodstream to the lymph vessels.
Once they settle in a new area, the cancer cells multiply until another tumor is formed. The new or metastatic tumor is made up of breast cancer cells. For example, a tumor that forms in the bones is made up of breast cancer cells, not bone cells.
Many women are diagnosed with breast cancer before it becomes metastatic. In some cases, the cancer is stage IV or metastatic when they are first diagnosed. Doctors refer to this as de novo metastatic, meaning the cancer wasnt detected before it spread to another part of the body.
It can take months or years for the cancer to metastasize or it may spread after treatment. There is no cure once the cancer spreads. While the overall 5-year survival rate is 90 percent for breast cancer, the 5-year survival rate after diagnosis with stage IV breast cancer is 28 percent.;Factors that affect survival rate include:
- Your age
- Type of tissues affected by the cancer
Diagnosed With Breast Cancer: Now What
A Michigan Medicine breast oncologist offers advice to help newly diagnosed patients navigate the early days of evaluation and developing a treatment plan.
When a person is diagnosed with breast cancer, information comes quickly.
Before the news can sink in, a procession of physicians from different specialties follows with each doctor sharing a mountain of information using a new vocabulary.
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Its overwhelming, says Aki Morikawa, M.D., Ph.D., a medical oncologist who sees patients with breast cancer at the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center. Thats how I describe the hours and days after a patient first hears she has breast cancer.
Despite the commotion, its important for patients to understand the situation and be ready to ask questions about their care.
Morikawa explains the most important details to emphasize during those early conversations:
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Further Tests After Diagnosis
If the biopsy results show there are breast cancer cells, you will need further tests.
You may have the following tests to check your general health:
- Blood test
You have a blood test;to check your general health and how well your kidneys and liver are working
- Chest x-ray
You will have a chest x-ray;to check your lungs and heart.
You may have tests to find out more about the size of the cancer, or if it has spread anywhere else in the body :
- MRI scan
An MRI scan;uses magnetism to build up detailed pictures of your body. It may be done to find out the size of the cancer and help decide on the operation you have.
- CT scan
A CT scan;takes a series of x-rays, which build up a three-dimensional picture of the inside of the body.
- Bone scan
A bone scan;shows up abnormal areas of bone. You have a small amount of a radioactive substance injected into a vein and wait for 2 to 3 hours to have the scan.
Immune System Boosting With Ph Therapy
Dr. Otto Warburg received the Nobel prize in 1931 for the discovery that unlike all other cells in the human body, cancer cells do not breathe oxygen. Normal healthy cells are very efficient at generating energy through aerobic metabolism. Cancer cells, on the other hand, are anaerobic and do not need oxygen to survive. It turns out that cancer cells actually cannot survive in the presence of high levels of oxygen. One appealing line of treatment therefore is to increase the bodys levels of oxygen.
High pH Therapy focuses on using a combination of an alkaline diet and alkaline minerals to reduce acid loads, increase oxygen content, and support the immune system, which is the bodys natural defense system. A healthy immune system is better able to help repair and rebuild damaged cells.
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Symptoms Of Breast Cancer
Breast cancer can have a number of symptoms, but the first noticeable symptom is usually a lump or area of thickened breast tissue.
Most breast lumps aren’t cancerous, but it’s always best to have them checked by your doctor. You should also see your GP if you notice any of the following:
- a change in the size or shape of one or both breasts
- discharge from either of your nipples;
- a lump or swelling in either of your armpits
- dimpling on the skin of your breasts
- a rash on or around your nipple
- a change in the appearance of your nipple, such as becoming sunken into your breast
Breast pain alone isn’t a symptom of breast cancer.
Learn more about the symptoms of breast cancer
After examining your breasts, your GP may refer you to a specialist breast cancer clinic for further tests.;This might include a mammography ;or a biopsy.
Read more about;breast screening;and;how breast cancer is diagnosed
What Is The Difference Between Radiation And Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy involves medications delivered by injections or taken in pill form. This type of treatment is circulated throughout the entire body and is generally prescribed by a medical oncologist. Radiation therapy, delivered by a radiation oncologist, uses radiotherapy beams focused on a very specific area of the body in order to deliver high doses of the treatment while reducing the risk of radiation exposure to healthy tissue.
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Sex Life And Fertility
Breast cancer treatments can have a direct effect on your sex life. In younger women some treatments may also affect being able to get pregnant .
For example, surgery may affect how you think and feel about your body which can affect your sex life. It can take time to adjust to changes to your body. If you have a partner, it can help to talk openly with them about your feelings. If any difficulties do not improve, ask your breast care nurse or doctor for advice.
If you have not been through menopause your doctor or nurse will advise you not to use contraception containing hormones. Women thinking of getting pregnant in the future will usually be advised to wait for 2 years.
If doctors think your treatment may affect your fertility, it may be possible to remove eggs from your ovaries before treatment starts. This may mean you can have fertility treatment in the future.
Fertility issues can hard to cope with. Some women may find it helpful to talk to a trained counsellor.
Ask About Genetic Testing
Discuss genetic testing with your doctors early on in your diagnosis. Genetic testing isnt recommended for everyone. Doctors and insurers refer to a set of parameters known as the National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines that include factors like your age, family history of cancer, type of cancer, and ethnicity to make the call.
If testing finds you have a germline mutation, this will determine the overall treatment plan, including the type of breast surgery recommended, says Dr. Barcenas.
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Is A Mastectomy My Only Option
A mastectomy is just one of several treatment options for breast cancer. Depending on the stage of the cancer, other options can include a lumpectomy, which only removes the cancerous tissue and a small portion of healthy tissue rather than the entire breast, lymph node removal, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, and biological therapy. Some treatment options are more aggressive than others, so your team of healthcare professionals will be able to provide you with the best option for your cancer based on its stage and your health. Clinical trials also serve as an option, but there is no guaranteed success, and the side effects may be greater than those from standard treatment.
Everything Will Be Ok
Though medical advances have lowered the death rates for breast cancer, the hard truth is no one knows how the disease will progress for your friend.
Its creating false hope because we dont know whats going to happen, Muradian says.
It can also make your friend feel patronized, because theyre likely well aware that things may not be okay.
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Previous Breast Cancer Or Lump
You have a higher risk of developing breast cancer again if you’ve previously had breast cancer. The risk is also higher if you’ve had early non-invasive cancer cell changes in breast ducts. This could have been either in your other breast or in the same breast.
A benign breast lump doesn’t mean you have breast cancer.
Certain changes in your breast tissue, such as cells growing abnormally in ducts , or abnormal cells inside your breast lobules , can make getting breast cancer more likely.
Surgery For Breast Cancer
Most women with breast cancer have some type of surgery. Common types of breast surgery are lumpectomy, mastectomy, and taking out lymph nodes from the underarm. Women who have a mastectomy may also decide to have the breast shape rebuilt, either at the same time or later on.
Choosing between lumpectomy and mastectomy
Lumpectomy only takes out the lump and a little bit around it. It lets you keep most of your breast. The downside is that youll most likely need radiation treatment after surgery. But some women who have a mastectomy also need radiation afterward.
When choosing between a lumpectomy and mastectomy, be sure to get all the facts. At first you may think that a mastectomy is the best way to get it all out. Some women tend to choose mastectomy because of this. But in most cases, lumpectomy is just as good as mastectomy. Talk to your cancer care team. Learn as much as you can to make the right choice for you.
If you have a mastectomy, you may want to think about having your breast shape rebuilt. This is called breast reconstruction. Its not done to treat the cancer. Its done to build a breast shape that looks a lot like your natural breast.
If youre going to have a mastectomy and are thinking about having reconstruction, you should talk to a plastic surgeon before the mastectomy is done. Your breast can be rebuilt at the same time the mastectomy is done or later on.
Side effects of surgery
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What Are The Potential Side Effects Of This Treatment
Many people who undergo radiation therapy for breast cancer have some breast pain and skin irritation. The affected skin may eventually become red and swollen like a sunburn. These conditions typically begin within a few weeks of starting treatment and go away on their own within six months after treatment ends. For some patients, these symptoms may not occur until several months or years after treatment. Other common side effects include fatigue, especially in the later weeks of treatment and for some time afterward, and firmness or shrinkage of the breast. Women who have had radiation therapy to the lymph nodes in the underarm area may develop lymphedema, a condition in which fluid collects in the arm, causing it to swell.
What Is Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the breast. It starts when cells in the breast begin to grow out of control.
Breast;cancer cells usually form a tumor that can often be seen on an x-ray or felt as a lump. Breast cancer is most common in women, but;men can get breast cancer, too.
Breast cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body and grow there, too. When cancer cells do this, its called metastasis.
Cancer is always named based on the place where it starts. So even if breast cancer spreads to the bones , its still called breast cancer. Its not called bone cancer unless it starts from cells in the bone.
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Consider Getting A Halo
Finally, one practical tip, because Id never heard of it before the woman at my wig shop suggested it, and I rarely hear it discussed, even in the cancer groups. If you have long hair and will be undergoing a treatment where you will lose itget a halo made from your hair.
Haloes are wiglets made by sewing hair onto a headband. A hat or turban is worn to cover the headband and the bald top of the head, and the hair looks just like it used to peeking out from under a hat.
The photo on the left was of me a couple of weeks before I lost my hair. The one on the right was from the day I received my halo.
Haloes are vastly less expensive than full wigs, theyre much cooler than a full wig in the summer, and they allow you to look like yourself as you go through treatment. Contact your local wig shop for information about getting this made. If you dont have a local shop that can make a halo, Chemo Diva is an online company that makes them.
If you are reading this because you just got some devastating news, I am so, so sorry. I am sending you a big virtual hug, screaming a loud FUCK CANCER on your behalf and assuring you that youve got this.
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Leave A Message After The Tone
People say, “Oh, I didnt know if I should call or bother you. I thought maybe you were sleeping,” but I want to be bothered, says Steele. And If I don’t want to talk, I’ll leave the machine on. In fact, if the phone keeps ringing but the patient is too tired to respond, I tell them to put a message on their machine, says social worker Maureen Broderick. “The patient or a family member could say, ‘Anne’s having her chemo right now, but she appreciates all of your good wishes. Please know that she can’t respond right now.'” If you’re a friend and you get that message, you can leave an answer saying, “I’m going to send you my email and would love to hear from you any time you have the energy,” Broderick says. “That way you’re keeping in touch and letting the breast cancer survivor respond on her own terms.”
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Take A Buddy To Every Appointment
I;found it was helpful to take a buddy along with me to my appointments, at least in the beginning. He was good not only for moral support, but as another set of ears when confusing medical information was being relayed.
I also took copious notes in my iPad at visitswriting down questions before I arrived and notating answers during the appointment. If you cant bring another set of ears to the appointment, consider asking your doctor if you can record the information to review later.
What Are The Possible Side Effects Of Each Treatment Option
Breast cancer treatments may cause temporary side effects that go away soon after treatment is completed, as well as longer-term side effects that last months or years. Below is a list of the side effects associated with each treatment option.
Surgery:;Surgical procedures for breast cancer may cause short-term pain or discomfort in the treated area. Also, the muscles of the arm may feel weak, and the skin in the breast area may feel tight. Surgery involving the lymph nodes may also cause swelling in the arm, a condition known as lymphedema.
Radiation therapy:;Many breast cancer patients who undergo radiation therapy experience skin irritation and breast pain. These conditions usually begin within a few weeks of starting treatment and go away on their own within six months after treatment ends. For some patients, however, these symptoms may not develop until several months or years after treatment. Another common radiation-related side effect is fatigue, especially in the later weeks of treatment and for some time afterward.
Chemotherapy:;Certain chemotherapy drugs may cause potential side effects like nausea, vomiting, fatigue, nerve damage, sore mouth, diarrhea, constipation and decreased blood counts.
Targeted therapy:;Side effects for HER2-positive targeted therapy drugs are typically mild, but serious side effects are possible and may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, mouth sores and rashes.
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