Survivor Day: Putting the ‘I’ in Survivor!

As we’ve been researching breast cancer survivorship online this week, we’ve been reminded just what a wide and deep subject ‘diagnosis’ really is. In fact, survivorship can almost only be 100% ‘defined’ clinically – because to each of us, it means something uniquely different. For example, some survivors believe in Pink as a symbol of hope, joy and resilient femininity, whilst others feel that Pink stinks – that it’s a blatant slap in the feminine face of their breast cancer reality. (How do you feel about Pink? Tell us on our Facebook page!)

So because we can only touch on the very tip of the survivorship-iceberg, we’ve created an ABC of Survivorship for you – and included links to more in-depth articles for you to explore!


Advocates for Breast Cancer - diagnosis


ACTIVE ADVOCACY: As a survivor, you are in the powerful and perfect position to be a voice for the voiceless. You have so much practical knowledge and emotional experience to be very effective in raising awareness and driving breast cancer education  forward thoughout our country and all its communities. (Saying that, never allow anyone to pressure you into it unless you feel it’s in your heart!) ***Connect with us on Facebook to see how we can help you get involved!

BOOKS ARE BRILLIANT! Just one example is Stealing Second Base:  A Breast Cancer Survivor’s Experience and Breast Cancer Expert’s Story by Lillie Shockney. Get browsing amongst the abundance of books out there to equip and encourage yourself!

CARE: What exactly is a ‘survivorship care plan‘?

DEFINITION of Survivorship: We want to know what YOUR definition of ‘survivor’ means! Please join us on Facebook and tell us what you think!

E:

FAMILIES & FERTILITY FACTS – and how, as a family, you can understand and embrace survivorship.

Pregnancy after early-stage breast cancer has not been shown to impact breast cancer recurrence or survival. It is often recommended that you wait for some time after completing all cancer treatments (including endocrine therapies) before trying to get pregnant since your body has been through so much. There is no magic formula of when the best time to get pregnant is after you complete treatment. You should work with your doctor to make decisions that are best for you and your family. For more information, visitwww.fertilehope.org or www.myoncofertility.org.” ~ via John Hopkins Medicine (READ MORE HERE.)

G:

H:

J:

K:

LIFESTYLE and its changes that come with being a survivor.

MYTHS (10 of them!) surrounding survivor care.

Your NEW NORMAL: ‘… you’re about to embark on another leg of the trip. This one is all about adjusting to life as a breast cancer survivor. In many ways, it will be a lot like the life you had before, but in other ways, it will be very different. Call it your “new normal.”‘ ~ via Gina Shaw for Webmd

OPTIMISE OPTIMISTICALLY: Visit CancerDietician.com to optimise your nutrition and lifestyle – and click here for a delicious resource of their recommended recipes!

PINK: Pink Ribbons, Pinktober and Pinkwashing! As a survivor, has this colour got you tickled pink? Or are you of the conviction we should adamantly think before we pink(Read more about the history of the pink ribbon here.)

Q:

REDUCING RISK OF RECURRENCE: Click here to read about 10 ways you can reduce your risk of breast cancer recurrance.

SEXY SURVIVORS: the video discusses everything as medically as you need to know about every possible issue like menopause, vaginal dryness etc. (Of course, besides the physical side of sex as a survivor, there is the heart-side to it which is just – and if not more important.)

T:

U:

VIDEOS — about breast cancer and survivorship. Click here!

W:

X:

Y:

Z:

(PS. You may be wondering why we’ve left some letters blank? Well, because today is Survivor Day, we would like to suvivors by asking you to fill in the blank letters in the Survivorship ABC with topics most important to YOU! Tell us on Facebook – because ABC wouldn’t be complete without you!)

What about fertility?

 

This amazing image is by photographer David Jay whose SCAR project celebrates the journeys of young breast cancer patients. You can find out more at the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-SCAR-Project/255064983743?ref=ts&fref=ts
This amazing image is by photographer David Jay whose SCAR project celebrates the journeys of young breast cancer patients. You can find out more at the Facebook page

Yesterday we talked about breast cancer in younger women. You can read that post here.

For young patients, there are some extra factors to consider, Apart from the immediate management of the breast cancer which includes a combination of surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy and biological treatment.

Fertility

Current breast cancer drugs (e.g. chemotherapy) can make some women infertile. This may not be an issue for women who are beyond child-bearing age or who already have children. It’s a greater problem for younger women, who plan future pregnancies. The impact of the treatment should therefore be discussed with the patient before it is commenced, as the response of each patient is different and so is the effect of the drugs on fertility.  Current guidelines for the treatment of breast cancer in the young recommend the use of chemotherapy for all but the earliest cancers and the vast majority of young breast cancer sufferers will have chemotherapy as part of their treatment.

This is an important factor for women, as the chance of suffering premature ovarian failure is as high as around 50% of women who have chemotherapy before the age of 40.  After that, the proportion rises rapidly to 95%+.

Lack of age appropriate treatments

Breast cancer in younger women can be more aggressive than in older women, and treatments are not designed for the younger population. Since young women have more aggressive tumours most guidelines recommend in addition to surgery, they also need chemotherapy.  Hormonal therapy regimens also differ as ovarian function has to be taken into consideration. Researchers’ focus on fine-tuning methods of fertility preservation fuel optimism about its increasing viability, but ovarian failure needs to be taken into account, along with the increased risk of miscarriage.

Work and career paths

Prolonged treatment regimes can impinge on the work and/or daily functioning of a young woman who is still active in the mainstream market place. Special consideration needs to be given to the patient regarding prolonged sick leave etc.

It is therefore paramount that these women be treated in a dedicated breast unit, by a multi-disciplinary team that can address the issues in an individualized fashion in this subset of patients afflicted by breast cancer.

Breast health management according to age.

Age 20-39:

*Monthly breast examination

*Clinical breast examination by a healthcare professional every 3 years

Age 40 and over:

* Monthly breast examination

*Annual clinical breast examination by a healthcare professional

*Annual mammography

Lifestyle do’s and don’ts

DON’T eat too many saturated fats. Avoid anything fried, including junk food.

DO go green. Stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables.

DO watch your weight. Increased body fat is linked to a raise in oestrogen levels.

DON’T drink more than two alcoholic drinks per day.

DO exercise more to decrease your breast cancer risk by 30%.

 

Dr Karin Baatjes, Specialist Surgeon and Professor Apffelstaedt, Associate Professor-University of Stellenbosch and Head: Breast Clinic, Tygerberg Hospital