In today’s post, we provide the questions that were sent in and asked during the live session of our Questions and Experts session held in May 2021. In this session, Dr. Mark Basik, MD, FRCPC, a Medical Oncologist, answered questions about breast cancer surgery. In the parentheses, you’ll find the timestamp of where to find the question in the on-demand video.
Nipple Sparing Mastectomy (NSM) is a surgery performed on individuals removing their breast due to breast cancer or as a risk reduction method to prevent breast cancer. During this procedure, a small cut is made in the breast and the entire breast glandular tissue is removed from underneath the skin and nipple, leaving them intact. Breast reconstruction, using either an implant or natural tissue, is then performed at the same time. NSM is a procedure that attempts to balance the preservation of the breast area with an effective and successful breast cancer treatment.
Some breast cancer patients who had a mastectomy have reported feeling painful and non-painful sensations in the area of the breast that was removed. This condition, known as phantom breast syndrome (PBS), usually start in the first year after a mastectomy. Sensations due to PBS usually occur in the chest, armpit, surgical scar, and inner arm and last far beyond the expected time for post-surgical pain. The prevalence of PBS is not exactly known, most likely due to a lack of reporting as patients either feel like it is not that big of a deal or because they find it hard to describe. PBS has been reported to affect anywhere between 4% to 56% patients; other studies report that it affects anywhere between 10% to 55% of women.
I am a 43-year-old mother of two amazing children, I have been in love with my wonderful Martin for 20 years now and I am a research professional in the health sector. Until August 2018, I was considered a breast cancer survivor. My cancer had been treated in the best way possible. My son was not yet one year old at the time (in 2012). I went through chemotherapy, radiotherapy, hormone therapy, a mastectomy and, finally, a breast reconstruction.
In October 2013, Allegra Kawa of Edmonton had surgery to remove both her breasts. She’s also considering surgery to remove her ovaries and uterus.
So, we could begin like all meeting group sessions do:
— Hi, hello. My name is Rebecca, I'm 37 and I have breast cancer.
— Hello Rebecca.
We could. Yeah.
Simply put, surgery is awful. Your body is recovering from some major trauma. And if you were feeling rather healthy before surgery, afterwards can feel a bit like a train wreck. We asked women for their tips on making recovery a little more bearable.
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.
In June 2015, I moved to London, Ontario and was recovering from a rather emotional and difficult time, having divorced in June 2014. I had moved from Sault Ste. Marie to be closer to my daughter with her husband and very young children. I would be seeing the rest of my family less often now – my parents, my two sisters, my daughter and her husband, and another granddaughter. and two step grandchildren.
My name is Alison Thompson and I was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago. To give you some background, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer about 15 years ago. Her cancer was an aggressive form. It spread to her spine and brain, and she passed away about three years after the initial diagnosis.
I was forty years old, running a successful business, comfortable in my finances, and feeling ready to settle down and start a family. Suddenly, a breast cancer diagnosis upended my sense of contentment and sent me on a journey of chemotherapy, immunotherapy, hormone therapy, a preventative double mastectomy, and, ultimately, reconstructive surgery.
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.
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.
People have known about breast cancer since ancient times. For most of that time, there were no effective treatments. However, in the last 120 years, advances in surgical and medical treatments have meant that today, 98 percent of patients with localized breast cancer survive at least five years after diagnosis. The following timeline shows the development of breast cancer treatments.
At the age of 46, I was diagnosed with stage two/grade three multifocal, invasive lobular and ductal breast cancer. I had found the lump myself after a year of constant infected cysts in my breast. I had been told I had very dense breasts, which is part of the reason the cancer was not visible on a mammogram. I had it confirmed by biopsy and had a right mastectomy followed by four rounds of chemotherapy. Six months later, I chose to have my left breast removed and began reconstruction.
Wendie Hayes of Stoney Creek Mountain, Ontario was diagnosed in 2011 with triple negative metaplastic phyllodes breast cancer at the age of 55 after she discovered a lump in her left breast. Her cancer is a rare type, affecting less than one percent of breast cancer patients, so it took some time to get the right diagnosis.
Struggling with body image is an age-old tradition for women. We can be so critical in how we see ourselves. Too fat, too skinny, bad skin, bad hair…every woman has one aspect of their bodies that they do not like or wish they could change. Add getting breast cancer to the mix and all those insecurities get amplified.
In 2003, I was a happily married, active, stay-at-home mom in Calgary, Alberta, where I was born and raised. I was 46 years old and filled my days going to the gym to work out, volunteering at the school and church, and running an active household. My son was 13 and my daughters were 11 and 8 at the time. I felt healthy and not overly stressed.