Cancer Q & A
with Kathy Kanavos
Your Concerns About Cancer
I have a very real fear of having breast cancer recurrence. It seems to always be on my mind. How did you handle this pervasive fear and what follow-up tests did you have after your treatments were completed to watch for recurrence?
Debbie in Boston, MA
First of all, let me put your mind at ease by saying a very small number of women experience recurrence. Those patients who do, have a better chance of surviving than ever before in the history of modern medicine. I dealt with this fear through meditation, faith, and listening to my body and dreams.
My follow-up routine was a mammogram every six months followed by an MRI six months later. Since my first cancer was not found on mammograms, I chose an MRI as a better way of watching for suspicious signs.
I also had blood work done and a physical examination every six months. Over time these precautions were reduced to once a year after three years.
The most important factor in finding and surviving cancer recurrence is finding it at the earliest possible stage. Listen to your fears but don't be ruled by them.
Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
After your radiation therapy, did you have any side effects after sunbathing? Is it okay for me to go out in the sun?
I was told by my doctors that I could have shooting pains and a reaction to direct sunlight after radiation therapy for up to five years. Occasionally I would get a pain in my nipple. This warning helped me not to become alarmed.
If I sat out in the direct sunlight for more than ten minutes, I would get a small amount of "sun poisoning." Sun poisoning is a rash on the skin that's a very itchy form of hives.
I limited my sun exposure to less than ten minutes after radiation and wore good sunscreen.
My first cancer was not found using mammograms yet hospital policy dictates that this is the "Gold Standard" of treatment used as my follow-up treatment. I am very worried. What should I do?
My first and second cancer was missed by mammograms also, so I understand your dilemma. Young women have dense breasts. This can make mammograms less reliable. My second breast cancer was found by MRI.
If I were being told to use a "Gold Standard" that did not work the first time, I'd ask for the "Platinum Standard" that included an MRI. During treatment and recovery, I refused to be dismissed or ignored. Be strong.
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