The Breast Health Foundation shares the most frequently asked questions about breast cancer that are asked in their support group, Bosom Buddies.
What is breast cancer?
The body is made up of billions of little cells. Each of these cells have a cell life cycle and job to do within that life cycle. Cancer starts with one tiny cell mutating; it doesn’t do the job the body wants it to do. Rather, this cell starts making copies of itself, growing other cells just like it. This grows into a tumour. Breast cancer starts within the structure of the breast. Eventually the tumour decides to break up and uses the bloodstream and lymphatic cleaning system of the body to travel to distant parts of the body, such as the brain, the bones, the liver and the lungs.
Why did I get breast cancer?
The short answer is, we don’t know. Twenty five percent of breast cancer patients have a family history of cancer. This increases their risk of developing a cancer. However, there is no single cause of breast cancer and no single event that will bring it on. There is nothing any woman does or doesn’t do to cause breast cancer. It’s simply an unfortunate event of life which can be managed through early diagnosis and treatment.
Why is my treatment different to other breast cancer patients?
There are different types of breast cancer that require different treatments. You must be diagnosed with a clinical breast examination, an ultra-sound and a mammogram as well as an ultrasound-guided core needle biopsy. From this information, your cancer will be staged, and the type or personality of your cancer will be determined.
Once you have been diagnosed, it’s important to check that your treating doctors are part of a multi-disciplinary team. This means that every doctor involved in cancer treatment should be speaking to every other doctor.
The intention of this team is that from the start, your treatment will be individually tailored to the exact stage and type of your breast cancer.
Will I be completely healed?
This is not a simple answer. Firstly, it’s important to note that no one dies of breast cancer in the breast (our breasts are not vital organs). It’s breast cancer’s ability to spread to the rest of our body (lung, liver, bones and brain) that is life-threatening. This is why early detection is so important. Ninety three percent of women diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer will survive. The goal of your cancer treatment will depend on your initial diagnosis, and this must be discussed with your multi-disciplinary team.
What side effects will I get?
There are side effects to every medication, even common over-the-counter pain medications comes with side effects. The side effects from breast cancer treatment will depend on the treatment you’re receiving together as an individual. As you go through each step of your breast cancer journey, ask your treating doctors about possible side effects and how to manage them. Document the side effects you experience and always share them with your doctors. The good news is that many side effects can be effectively managed. Remember, everyone reacts differently. The lady getting chemotherapy next to you may experience completely different side effects to you. Visit mybreast.org.za to find out the side effects of each therapy.
This article is sponsored by Accord Healthcare in the interest of education, awareness and support. The content and opinions expressed are entirely the support group’s own work and not influenced by Accord in any way.
Header image by Adocbe Stock