I am Meenakshi. I live in the buzzing city of Pune (India). I am 39 years right now and completely healthy. Let me take you back in time, the year 2016; My 36th birthday celebration was still on, both at home and hospital. I work as a part-time therapist in a non-profit hospital. All my patients gathered to celebrate my birthday, and this really touched me. At home, my husband and my 3-year-old boy had baked a not-so-good-looking, but love-filled cake. I was thrilled, and it was the best way I could turn 36.
The next morning, while in the shower, I felt a lump in my breast. I assumed I was imagining it and was worrying for no reason. I ignored it for a few days and continued with my daily commitments.
After a long day at work, I was getting ready to go to bed when I felt the lump again. Now, it was almost a week, and I could feel the lump every day. I decided to ask Dr. Sushma, the GP in the OPD at my hospital. Dr. Sushma hesitated a bit after checking me. This got me extremely anxious and worried. She said, “I am not too sure, I think you should get a scan done’’, I looked at her with a curious eye and asked, “You mean, it might be cancer?” She quickly gathered herself and shrugged, “I am not sure, I think it’s better to get a test done before concluding anything.”
I was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer. And, the only thing my oncologist told me, “Don’t be worried. You should be happy you got it checked so early. Early detection is really a plus. The cancer is at a stage when it can be treated, and you can be back to your regular normal life.”
I think this is what stuck to me the most. It’s a normal ailment that can be cured and I am going to work towards making that happen. This attitude of mine along with family support made me strong and we were ready to overcome everything that came our way.
A few weeks later, came the turning point of my life. The tumor was surgically removed. Dr. Priya, my oncologist suggested to take up CanAssist Breast test to find out the breast cancer recurrence risk before going ahead with the treatment.
CanAssist Breast provided additional information about my tumor. The test results helped us to identify the likelihood of cancer returning to a distant site after surgery. Luckily, I was under the low-risk recurrence zone and I was spared from chemotherapy and its side-effects. This timely action of mine not only saved the cost of treatment but also helped me in leading a quality life.
Today, being a breast cancer survivor, I thank OncoStem and Dr. Manjiri for helping me take the most important and timely decision of my life. The decision to take CanAssistBreast test helped me in personalizing my treatment and leading a normal life.
With the rising number of breast cancer cases in rural and urban India, there is an increased discussion and awareness about the disease. However, discussions about treatments are just one side of early-stage breast cancer. Psycho-social distress, work-illness management, gathering knowledge, family support, and other such
personal factors need attention, too. Those with early-stage breast cancer should know a few basic things before they begin their breast cancer treatment.
Here are 5 things every early-stage breast cancer patient should know:
1. Breast cancer brings with it the need for psycho-social care
The news of breast cancer diagnosis brings emotions and distress in the lives of the patients and their family members. Fear, anxiety, panic, and stress are among the common types of psychological effects that come with breast cancer. It includes cognitive, social, and functional problems. The levels of distress vary from patient to patient and family-to-family based on the disease and the treatment. As early-stage breast cancers are highly likely to be cured with ease, patients and family members should know that their distress would reduce gradually.
They may need the following care and help :
• Help in coping with depression, fear, and anxiety about the recurrence or progression.
• Help and support from family members, spouses, and relatives to understand them better.
2. Know your breast cancer – weigh the treatment options
All breast cancers are not the same, even at the early-stage. Stages 1 and 2 are categorized as early-stage. At this stage, the tumor is small, which means that it hasn’t spread to other parts of the body. Depending on the breast cancer type and the tumor grade, the oncologists will decide the treatment.
Years of scientific advances, technology, machine learning, therapeutics, and studies focused on cancer have come together to make personalized treatments for breast cancer possible. Oncologists are now studying the biology of patients’ tumor to decide the ideal cure. Patients with early-stage breast cancer need to know that the possibilities of personalized treatments to cure their cancer are positive.
Knowing your breast cancer in detail is essential because it can help you play an active part in deciding your treatment.
3. Managing professional life
The news about breast cancer can have adverse effects on a person’s professional life. Apart from managing and planning treatment, a woman has to decide whether to continue or quit working during her treatment. A decision to not work might leave the patient stressed about the expenses related to her treatment and the fear of losing the job if the employer is not supportive.
A woman with early-stage breast cancer has several factors to deal when it comes to work. Some patients might experience biases. Employers might not assign important jobs or projects to patients due to uncertainty or lack of confidence in the patient’s ability. Co-workers might start treating patients differently- with more care and support or the opposite. Patients have to deal with these changes at the workplace with a lot of care and maturity.
4. Early-stage breast cancer patients have high survival chances
In India, breast cancer cases have doubled over the past 25 years. Breast cancer accounts for around 8.2% of all cancers and the survival rate is still low at 66%, compared to 40% in the West. One of every two breast cancer patients in India doesn’t survive the disease. The reason: late detection.
As the stages advance, meaning an increase in the size of the tumor, its potential to spread in other parts of the body also increases. This affects patients’ chances of treatment and survival. If breast cancer involves the lymph nodes and/or if the tumor is larger, the chances of survival are lesser. If breast cancer is detected at an
early-stage, the chances of effective treatment are higher.
5. Support from family, friends, and gathering of information
It is important that families, friends, and spouses support breast cancer patients throughout their cancer journey. Physical, emotional, and mental support must be extended to the patient. The support of the family and the comfort of the patient are most important to deal with the situation in the best possible way. Every family and household will deal with it in a different way depending on the members and their needs. Here are some ways and things to do:
• Be patient
• Be open and have wholehearted conversations
• Read a lot about the patient’s condition to get a better understanding
• Research and explore all the possible treatments
• Let the patient know that you’re always there when needed
• Talk about financial help and how you will manage the expenses
• Help the patients deal with health insurance policies
• Be physically present when the patient needs help and support
• Talk about emotions and emotional needs of the patients
Knowing and understanding some of these basic and simple things about your breast cancer condition can help you to plan your treatment wisely.
Remember, early-stage breast cancer patients have a higher chance of eliminating the disease and living carefree.