Life After Breast Cancer

Life After Breast Cancer

Life After Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the most prevalent form of cancer worldwide. The incidence rate of breast cancer among women is more than twice that of colorectal cancer and three times that of cervical cancer. This alarming rate of increase in breast cancer cases among women has now led scientists to intensify their research in order to develop novel techniques that could be used in the diagnosis, prognosis, and therapy of breast cancer.  However, thanks to general awareness and recent medical advances, the survival rates are much higher than what it used to be in the late 80’s and 90s.

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer begins in the breast cells, and can metastasise or spread to other parts of the body in the form of tumours. The diagnosis of breast cancer can trigger numerous emotional responses: Denial, guilt, helplessness, anxiety, and fear are normal responses. Similarly, chemotherapy and radiation therapy often alter physical appearances and change the way one looks and feels. The demands of treatment may also affect personal relationships or make it difficult to manage usual activities and responsibilities. Fortunately, these are challenges that do not have to be faced alone. It helps to build a strong support network of family and friends. Make time to share your feelings with others; they are often the best support factors to help with.

What are the treatment options?

Treatment for breast cancer includes the following:

  1. Surgery
  2. Chemotherapy
  3. Radiation therapy

Breast cancer surgery

Surgery conducted for breast cancer is to mainly remove the tumours that are visible. Moreover, if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, then they are surgically removed as well. The type of breast cancer surgery conducted depends on several factors such as size of the tumour, location of tumour, and the patient’s overall health. The most common types of surgery are mastectomy (complete removal of breast) and lumpectomy or breast conserving surgery (partial removal of breast tissue). The surgeon in-charge selects the surgical course of action after assessing the patients overall condition and risk options 

What is Chemotherapy?

As the name suggests, chemotherapy is the use of chemical substances for the therapeutic treatment of cancer. Chemotherapy is conducted after surgery as a preventive measure to ensure that there is no relapse of breast cancer. It involves the use of heavy doses of medicine to kill cancer cells anywhere in the body. However, it also harms or kills healthy cells in the body, which in turn, causes side effects to the person undergoing treatment. These drugs are often administered intravenously; they can also be orally consumed or as an injection. 

What is radiation therapy?

Radiation therapy or radiotherapy involves the use of high energy radiation doses to effectively eradicate cancer cells and minimising harm to the surrounding healthy cells. Radiation therapy is known to have side effects such as nausea, fatigue, loss of appetite, hair loss, and skin discolouration and sensitivity.

Cancer not only affects the body physically but also has strong implications on a mental and emotional level. Low motivation, acceptance and an overall depletion towards ones self-esteem are common traits. It is imperative to first recognise and accept these emotional feelings and mental constraints, after which then refocusing on the goal of getting fitter and stronger. Many traditional beliefs are now disproving to be effective, and modern science is recognising the absolute importance of an integrated approach to healing for treatment and cure. Further, cancer survivors have reached greater levels of physical and mental strength than before their cancer diagnosis.