Breast Cancer Survivorship: Post-Diagnosis

2015KomenNCR-NBCAMGraphicFaceookCover-SurvivorshipBreast Reconstruction

Breast reconstruction can help restore the look and feel of the breast after a mastectomy. Performed by a plastic surgeon, breast reconstruction can be done at the same time as the mastectomy (“immediate”), or at a later date (“delayed”). Many women now get immediate breast reconstruction.

However, the timing depends on your situation and the treatment you will have after surgery. Not all women can have immediate reconstruction. It is important to discuss your options with your plastic surgeon, breast surgeon and oncologist (and your radiation oncologist if you are having radiation therapy).

There is no one best reconstruction method. There are pros and cons to each. For example, breast implants require less extensive surgery than procedures using your own body tissues, but the results may look and feel less natural. However, there are fairly few complications with any of the current techniques, especially when a woman is properly selected for a procedure.

Most breast reconstruction methods involve several steps. Both immediate and delayed reconstructions require a hospital stay for the first procedure. However, follow-up procedures may be done on an outpatient basis.

Screening/Re-diagnosis

Breast cancer survivors have an increased risk of getting a new breast cancer compared to those who have never had breast cancer. That is why it is important to get the follow-up care your doctor recommends. With proper follow-up, your doctor can keep track of how you are doing. This includes checking for and treating side effects. Follow-up care can also help ensure any recurrence of breast cancer can be found early when treatment is most effective.

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network offers these guidelines for follow-up of breast cancer treatment:

  1. Have a mammogram every 12 months. (For women treated with lumpectomy, have a mammogram six months after radiation therapy ends, then every 12 months.)
  1. Have a physical exam every three to six months for the first three years, every six to 12 months for years four and five, then every 12 months.
  1. Have a pelvic exam every 12 months if taking tamoxifen and have not had the uterus removed (have not had a hysterectomy).
  1. Have a bone health exam every one to two years, depending on a person’s risk factors.

Follow-up Tests

Depending on the symptoms, blood tests (including tumor marker tests) and imaging tests (including bone scans, CT scans, PET scans and chest X-rays) may be used to check for metastases. Using these tests to check for early metastases in people with no symptoms of metastases does not increase survival. For people with no symptoms of metastases, blood and imaging tests (other than mammography) are not a standard part of follow-up care.

Learn more about medical care after breast cancer treatment: http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/MedicalCareAfterTreatment.html

We are celebrating National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Connect with and follow Komen St. Louis and use #Komen365 to join in the conversation.

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Understanding Breast Cancer Risk Factors: Family History

2015KomenNCR-NBCAMGraphicFaceookCover-RiskWhile most people diagnosed with breast cancer do not have a family history of the disease, a family history of certain types of cancer (breast, ovarian or prostate) can increase your risk of breast cancer. This increased risk may be due to genetic factors (known and unknown), shared lifestyle factors, or other family traits.

  • Women who have a sister or mother who was diagnosed with breast cancer before age 40 have almost twice the risk of women with no family history of breast cancer.
  • A history of prostate cancer in a father or brother may also increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer, especially if the prostate cancer was found at a young age.

Breast cancer screening for women at higher risk

There are special breast cancer screening guidelines for some women at higher risk. If you have a higher risk of breast cancer, talk with your doctor about which screening options are right for you. You may need to be screened earlier and/or more often. Additionally, if you have a higher risk of breast cancer, there are some options to help lower your risk, including:

  • Such decisions should only be made after talking with your doctor.

Learn more: http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/FamilyHistoryofBreastOvarianorProstateCancer.html

and

http://ww5.komen.org/uploadedFiles/_Komen/Content/What_We_Do/We_Fund_Research/Your_Research_Dollars_at_Work/2014%20Susan%20G.%20Komen%20CM%20Fast%20Facts.pdf

We are celebrating National Breast Cancer Awareness Month for the next six weeks. Connect with and follow Komen St. Louis and use #Komen365 to join in the conversation.

Breast Cancer Survivorship: Post-Diagnosis

SGK_NBCAM_2014_SurvivorsBreast Reconstruction

Breast reconstruction can help restore the look and feel of the breast after a mastectomy. Performed by a plastic surgeon, breast reconstruction can be done at the same time as the mastectomy (“immediate”) or at a later date (“delayed”). Many women now get immediate breast reconstruction.

However, the timing depends on your situation and the treatment you will have after surgery. Not all women can have immediate reconstruction. It is important to discuss your options with your plastic surgeon, breast surgeon and oncologist (and your radiation oncologist if you are having radiation therapy).

There is no one best reconstruction method. There are pros and cons to each. For example, breast implants require less extensive surgery than procedures using your own body tissues, but the results may look and feel less natural. However, there are fairly few complications with any of the current techniques, especially when a woman is properly selected for a procedure.

Most breast reconstruction methods involve several steps. Both immediate and delayed reconstructions require a hospital stay for the first procedure. However, follow-up procedures may be done on an outpatient basis.

Screening/Rediagnosis

Breast cancer survivors have an increased risk of getting a new breast cancer compared to those who have never had breast cancer. That is why it is important to get the follow-up care your doctor recommends. With proper follow-up, your doctor can keep track of how you are doing. This includes checking for and treating side effects. Follow-up care can also help ensure any recurrence of breast cancer can be found early when treatment is most effective.

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network offers these guidelines for follow-up of breast cancer treatment:

  1. Have a mammogram every 12 months. (For women treated with lumpectomy, have a mammogram six months after radiation therapy ends, then every 12 months.)
  1. Have a physical exam every three to six months for the first three years, every six to 12 months for years four and five, then every 12 months.
  1. Have a pelvic exam every 12 months if taking tamoxifen and have not had the uterus removed (have not had a hysterectomy).

Follow-up Tests

Depending on the symptoms, blood tests (including tumor marker tests) and imaging tests (including bone scans, CT scans, PET scans and chest X-rays) may be used to check for metastases. Using these tests to check for early metastases in people with no symptoms of metastases does not increase survival. For people with no symptoms of metastases, blood and imaging tests (other than mammography) are not a standard part of follow-up care.

Learn more about medical care after breast cancer treatment: http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/MedicalCareAfterTreatment.html

We’re celebrating National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Connect with and follow Komen St. Louis and use the hashtag #bcjourney to join in the conversation.

 

A Survivor’s Story: Valeda Keys

Guest Writer: Valeda Keys, Breast Cancer Survivor

Everyone has a story to tell. No matter who you are, your life is worth talking about.

In 2007, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time, 20 years after her first diagnosis. It was then that I had a vivid dream that I would have to go through this challenge as well.

I was advised to get mammograms starting at age 27 due to my family history of breast cancer. I have never missed a year getting my mammogram. On April 26, 2010, at 5:26 pm, I received a phone call and was told: “Mrs. Keys, you have Ductal Carcinoma in Situ.” I knew that meant CANCER. I was 37 years young at the time of diagnosis. With constant prayer, I knew I would get over this.

Valeda Keys (left) with her twin sister Vanessa Robinson

Valeda Keys (left) with her twin sister Vanessa Robinson

On May 13, 2010, a lumpectomy was performed on my left breast with some lymph nodes removed. After the lumpectomy, results from the genetic test I had taken revealed that I carried the BRCA-2 gene mutation. My identical twin sister also was tested and had the same result. During June and July 2010, I underwent radiation every weekday and began taking Tamoxifen.

On August 11, 2011, I was diagnosed with breast cancer again. This time the cancer had developed independently in my right breast. I was now 39 years young. My medical oncologist suggested I have a double mastectomy. I felt like my breasts were trying to kill me. I felt like I had no choice. I wanted my breasts, but I couldn’t have them.

On September 12, 2011, I had the double mastectomy. Part of the healing process included physical therapy and emotional therapy. Telling my story is healing.

During this time of recovery, I was ready to start giving back. It was put on my heart to have a breast cancer awareness conference entitled, “My Strength Is Your Strength.” This name came from everything I’ve been through and for women who may have to take this same journey.

The November 2012 conference was a great success. A second conference is planned for November 2, 2013. Susan G. Komen St. Louis has provided me with lots of materials to bring awareness to our community, family, friends and even strangers. I will continue to follow my passion, which is breast cancer awareness and sharing the story of my breast cancer journey with others.

As I continue to deal with the aftermath of breast cancer, I ran my first 5K at the 2013 Susan G. Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure. I remain hopeful in every area of my life.

Native St. Louisan Valeda Keys is a Licensed Practical Nurse and a two-time breast cancer survivor. She and her identical twin sister, Vanessa Robinson, trained for 10 weeks to run the 2012 Komen St. Louis Race 5K. Valeda was named the 2013 Honorary Team New Balance Member for the 15th Annual Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure®.

With Zumba® Love…

Guest Writer: Paula Imbierowicz, Breast Cancer Survivor and Zumba® Enthusiast

Zumba…such a fun word to say. And such a fun, exhilarating thing to do!

Zumba® Fitness is an “easy-to-follow, Latin-inspired, calorie-burning dance-fitness party that’s moving millions of people toward joy and health.” I stumbled into a class back in 2010 and have been hooked ever since. However, Zumba is more than just a fitness class to me; it is a family of support through the good and bad. My Zumba sisters and I are there for each other in many ways. This is where my story begins.

Paula Imbierowicz (center) with Caliente for the Cure co-chairs Barbara Absher and Jenn Turek

Paula Imbierowicz (center) with Caliente for the Cure co-chairs Barbara Absher and Jenn Turek

In October 2012, I received a phone call that I never expected. My physician was on the other end of the line, calling to tell me I had Stage I breast cancer. Wow. Not many things render me speechless, but those two words – breast cancer – did.

Over the next few weeks and through many doctor appointments, we came up with a plan of attack. I chose a bilateral mastectomy, even though the cancer was only found in the right side. I wanted to be proactive and prevent this from happening again. My surgery was scheduled for December 2012. I decided to turn my negative into a positive, so I contacted some of my Zumba sisters about having an “Adios Amigos” party for my “girls” to raise money for Komen St. Louis.

Party in motion…turnout was more than I expected! I did not know most of the participants, but it didn’t matter. We were all there for one common purpose, and that was to raise awareness and money to help others and fight this disease. Throughout what I call my BC (breast cancer) detour in life, my Zumba family has been there for me, whether it’s through a note on social media, a card in the mail, or a shoulder to cry on.

A mammogram saved my life. My spots could not be felt by self-exam. I am 42 years-old and the mother of two teenage sons, and I plan to be around to watch them as they grow and experience life. Breast cancer will not get me…I will get it.

Caliente 2013My Zumba sisters and I will be dancing and celebrating at the 5th Annual Caliente for the Cure® on Friday, June 14. I have participated in this event for the past two years, but this year will be extra special. You see, I will be dancing as a survivor!

The 5th Annual Komen St. Louis Caliente for the Cure takes place on Friday, June 14, from 6-8 pm at Saint Louis University’s Simon Recreation Center. Learn more and register.

A Previvor’s Story: Joanne Kelly

A previvor is a survivor of a predisposition to cancer.

It takes courage to undergo genetic testing and uncover one’s risks for developing breast cancer. And it takes courage to process all of the complexities of cancer and still encourage others to take action. Joanne Kelly, a breast and ovarian cancer previvor, possesses the courage to go through all this and still maintain a positive outlook.

Joanne Kelly

Joanne Kelly

Joanne has lived with the possibility of developing cancer ever since her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and her aunt was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
Approximately five to 10 percent of breast cancers in the United States are linked to an inherited genetic mutation. Despite knowing her risk early on, it was not until years later that Joanne decided to proceed with genetic testing.

“When I was 20, I did not want to have the test done; I did not want to know,” says Joanne. “As I matured in my career as an oncology nurse, I wanted to know the risk.”

Following the advice of a coworker, Joanne spoke with Suzanne Mahon, founder of the Hereditary Cancer Program at Saint Louis University Cancer Center and a Komen St. Louis grant recipient. Once the two met for genetic counseling, Mahon coordinated the genetic testing, Joanne’s mother was tested first, and the testing revealed she carried the BRCA1 mutation. Subsequent test results determined Joanne also carried this genetic mutation.

“It is very, very important to have genetic counseling before you have genetic testing done. It’s a big piece of information for the rest of your family, for your children and your children’s children,” says Joanne. “To have someone help you process that information is important. I kind of knew my risk already with my family history. To know for sure was certainly overwhelming. It was also very empowering to know that I could hopefully prevent cancer.”

Devastated yet emboldened by the news of her risk of developing cancer, Joanne decided to take action. She opted for a double mastectomy in 2008 and a hysterectomy/oophorectomy in 2010.

“Having surgery has taken away the cloud over my head,” says Joanne. “It’s been four years since I’ve had the mastectomy. Prior to the surgery, I had the internal struggle of dealing with having cancer down the line.”

Through it all, Joanne credits her husband and children with keeping her going. With their support, she has been empowered to share her experience as she educates and empowers other women.

“What motivates me are the hundreds of women who will come after me,” says Joanne. “I want to be an example that knowledge is power. I can be a voice to encourage women to know their risk, to know that it’s going to be OK.”