Tell me if any of this rings a bell…
The Beginning: Get up, find a lump, feel confused, panic inside, see the doctor, see a specialist, get a mammogram, see an oncologist, have an ultrasound, get an MRI, biopsy the lump, do it all over again and again and again, receive a breast cancer diagnosis, feel in shock, go home, make a plan, fall into bed and don’t fall asleep.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), breast cancer is the most common form of cancer, with more than 2.2 million cases in 2020. It is estimated that 1 in 12 women will develop breast cancer and it will be the primary cause of death among all other types of cancer in women. However, breast cancer survival has improved significantly since the 1980s due to increased early detection, screening programs, and improved treatment options.
I am a 51-year-old woman from the Loire Valley. I live near Orléans, 120 kilometres south of Paris. I grew up surrounded by women. I am the youngest of five sisters; twenty years separate me from my oldest sister and ten years separate me from the fourth one. Our mother received her breast cancer diagnosis in 1985 and at the time, cancer care was awful. My father died from a cardiac arrest in July 1986, probably caused by grief. My mother was brave and fought as much as she could, but she passed away in May of 1989 when I was 20 years old. Because of her breast cancer diagnosis, my sisters and I have closely monitored our risk of developing breast cancer.
It’s funny how breast cancer changed the way I feel about myself and my life. Not in a ha-ha sense, although trust me, I would like to laugh more. And not in a questioning kind of way either, although I did torture myself during the first couple of weeks after my diagnosis, looking for the answer to explain why I had breast cancer. As far as I was concerned it was because I never wore sunscreen as a kid; I drank and smoked my way through my twenties; worked 80-hour, ladder-climbing work weeks in my thirties and went through a heartbreaking divorce that left me feeling like road kill in my forties. Except that it wasn’t.
Women living with breast cancer are not just cancer patients; they’re moms, spouses, sisters, friends, and daughters. The many roles and responsibilities a woman assumes to support those around her don’t disappear when she is diagnosed with cancer. One of these responsibilities may be caring for aging parents or family members. This burden may seem heavy at times but there are places you can turn to for support. Check out the following resources.
In Part 1 we discussed the risk factors of lymphedema and tips for reducing this risk. Today we’re helping you identify early signs and what treatments are available for lymphedema.
Breast cancer-related lymphedema is abnormal swelling that can develop in the arm, hand, breast, or torso on the side treated for breast cancer where lymph nodes have been removed. Lymphedema can develop suddenly or gradually. It can happen soon after surgery or can develop months or years later.
Canada’s new food guide is, in one word, refreshing! First off, it makes us hungry just looking at it. And secondly, it does away with the confusing portion sizes and focuses more on practical tips for incorporating healthier foods into our diets.
We asked Tricia, a member of our patient advisory committee, to share her thoughts on our newest digital tool, the FinancialNavigator, designed to help connect patients with financial resources in their community. Here’s what she had to say.
February is here, which means Valentine’s Day is around the corner. Valentine’s is a day that you either love or hate. And throwing the C-word into the mix can make it hard even when it’s something you’re usually excited for.
World Cancer Day on February 4th gives us a chance to reflect on 2018, the work we’ve accomplished and the work that still needs to be done. This year, WCD has a brand-new message: I Am And I Will.
I remember sitting in the small room waiting for the doctor to come in. I was nervous but didn’t think anything was wrong. The doctor came in and asked how I was. I gave my usual cheery response that everything was good but added that “it depended on what he was going to tell me…ha ha ha”. I laughed but my jovial manner quickly subsided when my doctor sat down and the words “it’s not good” came out. My heart dropped. He then said, “It’s cancer”. My heart dropped again.
The Canadian Breast Cancer Network is pleased to welcome a new member to our board of directors. Cathy Hemeon of Mount Pearl, Newfoundland brings many years of experience in the health care field to her new role. She, like all CBCN board members, is also a breast cancer survivor. She was diagnosed in February 2016 with Stage I triple positive breast cancer following a screening MRI.
For Andrea Sveinbjornson of Regina, the Canadian Breast Cancer Network’s new SurgeryGuide is an invaluable tool, one that she wishes she had when she had to make decisions about breast surgery in 2016.
That’s what Dr. Majumder and her team of researchers at Brandon University in Manitoba are hoping to find out. Dr. Majumder, Assistant Professor in Cancer Genetics and Cell Biology, is screening blood plasma from breast cancer patients and patients who don’t have breast cancer to determine if there is a blood biomarker like micro RNA (miRNA) that could potentially tell us when breast cancer is present or growing in a person.
In August 2014 I found a lump in my left breast. This is unusual for inflammatory breast cancer (IBC), a rare and very aggressive cancer where cancer blocks the lymph vessels.
We all know how integral surgery is for the treatment of breast cancer. It’s usually the first step in treating early stages of the disease which means it can come quickly after diagnosis. The time when you’re still processing your diagnosis is also the time when you’re making some of the most important decisions about your treatment. Trying to make these decisions while learning this new, complicated language called cancer doesn’t make those decisions any easier.
It was just another typical morning in our house, trying to get my son fed and dressed before I take him to daycare. As I am multitasking, getting myself dressed and making sure my son is actually brushing his teeth, I notice he’s watching me. He’s still trying to process those two large scars across my chest. The incisions are still fresh and slowly healing and turning to scars. Scars that represent where my breasts once were but now is just an empty space. He finally pipes up. “When are your boobies going to grow back, Mommy?” He asks so innocently.
Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is a rare and aggressive form of the disease that doesn’t get a lot of attention. It’s tough to diagnose because of its unusual symptoms, and it’s more common in young women which makes it particularly tricky since the symptoms mimic that of mastitis, a common breast infection in new moms who breastfeed. Here’s what you need to know:
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2016. My understanding of the language of breast cancer that allowed me to fully comprehend my diagnosis and treatment options, came long after the news. Long after the radiologist told me that my mammogram was “highly suspicious for cancer.” Long after the surgeon doing my breast biopsy spelled out that I had a mass in my left breast, at least two enlarged lymph nodes, and was facing “a very difficult year.” Using that language now, I had locally advanced, hormone responsive, HER2 negative, stage 2, invasive ductal carcinoma: T2N1. After that difficult year (and more), my cancer is in remission.