No Hill For a Climber, Surgical Choices

As Loraine’s husband, I might have some say in what type of surgery she will undergo for this breast cancer. But, because of my love and respect for this woman who has been my everything, the final choice of surgery and treatments will be her choice to make. It is her body, her breasts, she is the one who has to live with the decision she makes. No matter what, I will be at her side, still loving and supporting her through it all.

If you can say there is any good fortune in this, it is that Loraine has the most common type of breast cancer, Invasive Ductal Carcinoma which starts in a milk duct in the breast and grows through the wall of the duct. We are fortunate in this being the most common type as there has been enough research completed to make this one also the most treatable.

Four other types of breast cancer:

From St. Luke’s literature:

  1.  Ductal carcinoma in situ or DCIS, which is a very early breast cancer. In DCIS, the cancer cells are only formed inside the ducts that carry milk to the nipple. The cancer cells have not spread through the walls of the ducts into nearby breast tissue. Nearly all women with DCIS can be cured.
  2. Lobular carcinoma in situ or LCIS, starts in the glands that make milk but does not grow through the walls of the glands. It’s not a cancer, but women with LCIS have a higher chance of getting breast cancer. If you have LCIS, you should be sure to get mammograms the way your doctor tells you to.
  3. Invasive lobular carcinoma, starts in the milk glands. These are called lobules. It can spread to other parts of the body.
  4. Inflammatory breast cancer or IBC is a rare type of breast cancer. Most often there is no lump or tumor. IBC makes the skin of the breast look red and feel warm. The skin can also look thick and pitted, kind of like an orange peel. The breast may get bigger, harder, tender and itchy. Because there is no lump, IBC may not show up on a mammogram. This can make it harder to find IBC early. It is more likely to spread and is harder to cure than invasive ductal or lobular cancer.

Questions to ask the doctor. 

  • Why do you think I have cancer?
  • Is there a chance I do not have cancer?
  • Would you please write down the type of cancer you think I might have?
  • What will happen next?
  • How will the doctor know if I have breast cancer?

What kind of treatment will I need?

There are many ways to treat breast cancer, but the main types of treatment are local or systemic.

Surgery and radiation are used to treat only the cancer. They do not affect the rest of the body. This is called local treatment.

Chemo and radiation treatment drugs go through the whole body. The can reach cancer cells anywhere in the body. They are called systemic treatment.

Doctors use both local and systemic treatments to treat breast cancer. The treatment plan that’s best for you will depend on:

  • The stage and grade of the cancer.
  • The chance that a type of treatment will cure the cancer or help in some way.
  • Your age.
  • Other health problems you may have.
  • Your feelings about the treatment and the side effects that come with it.

Surgery for breast cancer

Most women with breast cancer have some type of surgery. Some types of surgery are lumpectomy, mastectomy, and taking out the lymph nodes from the underarm. Women who have a mastectomy may also decide to have the breast shape rebuilt, either at the same time or later.

Choosing between lumpectomy and mastectomy

Lumpectomy only takes out the lump and a little bit around it. It lets you keep most of your breast. The downside is that you will most likely need radiation treatment after surgery. But some women who have a mastectomy also need radiation afterward.

When choosing between a lumpectomy and mastectomy, be sure to get all the facts. At first you may think that a mastectomy is the best way to get it all out. Women tend to choose mastectomy because of this. But, in ms cases, lumpectomy is just as good as mastectomy. Talk to your cancer care team. Learn as much as you can to make the right choice for you.

A diagnosis of breast cancer is a very stressful and life changing event. If you or a loved one has been recently diagnosed, please do all that you can to keep yourself healthy through diet and exercise that has been approved by your doctor. The healthier your body, the stronger your immune system will be to fight off this evil beast of a disease.  When stress is killing you, do yourself a favor and reach for a healthy choice food instead of some sugar filled, highly processed garbage that will only make you feel better for the very brief moment that you are eating it. Once that sweet treat has been swallowed, the stress of the disease is going to return about as quickly as it left. That is, if it even left you at all.

If you or a loved one have received the diagnosis of breast cancer, knowledge is going to be your friend. Read up and educate yourself as best  you can. It is your body and your life. Have questions for your doctor at the ready.

 

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