Breast cancer is one word no one ever wants to hear. Sadly 12.4 percent of women born in the United States today will develop breast cancer at some time during their lives.* That means that woman has a 1 in 8 chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer. It also means that there is a 87.6 percent (7 in 8) chance she will never have breast cancer. Through early detection, the 5-year survival rate is very high. Though breast cancer can be survivable, other than skin cancer, it is the most common cancer among American women.**
So what do you do when “cancer” is directed toward you as the patient or your loved one? When you receive a breast cancer diagnosis, your doctor will order various tests that provide details about your type and stage of breast cancer. Your diagnosis helps the health care team determine your best treatment options. During this time, you may want to have a spouse, close friend, or someone you trust to sit in on your appointments with you. Having a confidant with you to assist in listening to the details from the doctor can be beneficial to your understanding of treatment. It is common to feel overwhelmed with a cancer diagnosis and talking to your doctor about all the questions you may have can be beneficial in alleviating some of your stress. Your team of doctors, nurses and social workers are valuable sources of support as you cope with a cancer diagnosis. Oncology staff help treat patients every day physically but also provide emotional support.
As a caregiver to someone with breast cancer, you can play a very important role in that person’s treatment process. The first step of knowing how to help your loved one is to inform yourself. Accompany your loved one to their appointments and ask the health care team for resources where you can learn about the diagnosis and treatment. Most importantly be there for them. Simply providing comfort through listening can be enormously helpful to your loved one. Instead of being a cheerleader and trying to provide reassurance at all times, stop and listen. Just listening to them and their fears, concerns, and thoughts can help with their emotional process. Both the caregiver and the patient may want to reach out to a social worker or support group. Knowing that neither party is alone in this fight can build confidence and strength.
Memorial Hospital’s team of doctors and nurses are empathic to both the patient and their family. Dr. Justin Floyd D.O., Medical Oncology/Hematology, provides care to patients at Memorial weekly in the specialty clinic. Patients value the convenience of receiving quality care without an extended commute. Keeping the care close to home not only benefits the patient but also their caregivers. Many spouses are able to adjust their schedules at work so they can still fill their weekly hours but also be there for their loved ones. The personalized care the family is provided by the nursing team is also admired. Memorial’s chemotherapy and infusion nurses are diligent to tend to the patient’s comfort. The caregivers are also treated with respect and support as they assist their loved ones through the extensive treatments. Memorial’s state-of-the-art chemo and infusion department is equipped with fully reclining chairs and personal TVs so the patient can enjoy the comforts of home during their treatment. The infusion center provides service Monday through Friday.
Survival from cancer has improved due to cancer research. “Cancer research provides new treatment options for patients still today. Don’t be shy, ask your doctor, ‘Hey Doc, is there a clinical trial for me?’, recommends Dr. Floyd. “You may get tomorrow’s treatment today!"
The process of going through a breast cancer diagnosis can be scary, but know that early detection is key in fighting this disease. At the age of 40 women should start asking their doctor if they should receive an annual mammogram screening. A mammogram screening can detect cancer before symptoms occur. With advancement in technology, Memorial is now able to offer 3D mammograms to patients. This option produces detailed pictures of the breast tissue in a series of images, much like pages of a book, and can lead to earlier detection of cancer. Make the decision to schedule your screening. Remember, through early detection, the 5-year survival rate is very high.
*Howlader N, Noone AM, Krapcho M, et. al. (eds). SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975–2009 (Vintage 2009 Populations), National Cancer Institute. Bethesda, MD, 2012. Retrieved September 7, 2012.
** American Cancer Society: http//www.cancer.org/cancer/breastcancer/detailedguid/breast-cancer-survival-by-stage.