Women's Health

How Breast Cancer Diagnosis and Support Have Changed

How Breast Cancer Diagnosis and Support Has Changed

How Breast Cancer Diagnosis and Support Have Changed

Hearing the words, “It’s cancer,” is devastating for a person and their loved ones.

Upon diagnosis, thoughts start to race. What to do? Where to look for help and support? It’s just plain frightening.

The patient’s attention is drawn back to the oncologist’s verbal explanation of treatment options. You hear the voice, but can’t seem to fully comprehend the words.

Good news: The facts are more promising today than they were in the very recent 20th century.

According to the American Cancer Society’s cancer facts and figures for 2017, in the United States, almost 69 percent of Americans with cancer had an average survival rate of five years. The usual attack plans include radiation, surgery, and chemotherapy. These therapies target the specific genetic structure of cancer cells. Also, immunotherapy drugs are used to build up the immune system. However, there are associated side effects.

In countries where cancer services are initiated, medical oncologists and teams of other professionals join together for the fight. The collective goal is to support and include the patient and their family in all decisions. A radiation oncologist and an oncology surgeon are common additional team members. Also included are an oncology nurse to administer the ordered medical treatments and a pharmacist to dispense the prescribed medicines. In order to prevent or respond to any mental health or mood issues, the team can even have an oncology social worker. They can assist in finding services for home care, financial needs, clergy referrals, and transportation to treatments.

The team is rounded out with a nutritionist who works with the patient and their family. They help develop a healthy food plan and assist the body so it can recover from any dietary issues that arise due to the side effects of the treatments. To monitor the effects of oncology, the patient’s primary care provider is also brought on board.    

In the oncology care department in Dublin at Beacon Hospital, clinical specialist physiotherapist Ailish Daly believes that, for those with cancer, an important part of the healing process is physical activity. Current studies are discovering the importance of exercise to further recovery in cancer patients. It cannot be denied that during treatment and throughout the recovery stage, activity goals are important to have. Sharlynn Tuohy, Director of Rehabilitation at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in the U.S., states that physical therapy is not often used in cancer treatments. During the treatment period and into the recovery phase, she advocates physical therapy to be utilized.

Below are a few ways to take charge of one’s treatment period and post-treatment recovery:

  • Know that physical exercise can help to overcome the side effects of treatment.
  • During treatment, choose to say active, such as walking just five minutes per day.
  • Pursue a physical activity for ongoing exercise.
  • Don’t overdo it during the recovery phase and be realistic.
  • Take some company like a friend or a family member to exercise with you.
  • To loosen up any stiffness in the joints or weakness in the muscles, consider stretching exercises.
  • Be aware that swelling with fluid build-up often results if you have lymph node surgery.

During recovery:

  • Report to your oncologist if you become ill.
  • An important part of recovery is to eat healthy and maintain a positive outlook.
  • Become familiar with local resources that help cancer survivors during and after treatment.
  • Stay positive about your future. Be aware that research on rehabilitation, quality of life, and other cancer cure issues is continuing.
  • Online support communities help in locating cancer support services. You can find people facing similar experiences and share your own with them. To overcome breast cancer, a sense of community and support is essential.