Don’t fear breast cancer screening

Don’t fear breast cancer screening

Avril Harry RN, BSc Oncology Nursing
Pink Hibiscus Breast Health Specialist 

Countless times I’ve heard clients say that they’ve not been too inclined to have screening for fear they might have to do some form of diagnostic procedure like a needle test (fine needle aspiration) or biopsy. A diagnosis of breast cancer causes insurmountable anxiety. Patients have considerable concerns, and quite rightfully so. Of paramount importance is the provision of a holistic approach inclusive of meeting their emotional needs. Equally important are concerns about the next steps in the journey such as how cancer treatment will impact on their everyday lives, ability to care for children, relationships with spouses or partners, body image, sexuality, and fertility (for women of childbearing age).

Similarly, they express concern about surgery which is understandable. However, there is immense trepidation from the possibility that other treatments may be involved such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy. We have been sharing repeatedly and cannot overemphasise that annual screening allows us to identify cancers in their earliest stages so as to avoid other treatment modalities such as chemotherapy or radiation.

In 2016 we continue to hold the view that no woman should have to die from breast cancer. And it has been proven. Along with my colleagues, we have had the amazing opportunity of witnessing this first-hand, as early detection strategies can improve outcomes. Breast cancer diagnosis is no longer a death sentence.

Of course, some people may say, “But my cancer was caught early why might I need surgery or chemotherapy?” Of note, one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to treatment. Standard treatment for breast cancer may include surgery of varying types, with or without radiation and with or without chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, and targeted therapies.

Firstly, surgery in most instances is the first step. The aim of the treatment is considered localised. In localised breast cancer, the goal is always curative. Treatment of localised breast cancer is today often multimodal.

Multiple treatment modalities are combined to give the best possible results and to give the patient the possibility of saving the good aspects of their breast, this is referred to as breast conservation surgery. The tumour size and characteristics, possible lymph node spreading, and the age of the patient will dictate which treatment is appropriate.

There are a variety of treatment options which in turn can achieve good results. The landscape of breast cancer treatment continues to evolve and with comprehensive screening and early detection, people may not have to undergo the harsh treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

While scientific research on most complementary therapies is relatively new and the studies are small, early results show that some complementary therapies may help ease physical and emotional symptoms associated with breast cancer treatment in some people. When combined with conventional medicine, complementary therapies may offer a more integrated approach to healing.

There are several complementary/holistic techniques that may help ease fear and stress. These may include aromatherapy, guided imagery, journaling, massage, meditation, music therapy and support groups. Though it is always recommended that there be collaboration with your breast specialist/oncologist prior to the commencement of these agents.

There has been a lot of research into improving cancer treatments, and this research will continue. This means that today’s cancer treatments are easier to cope with than they used to be and have less severe side effects that are often more easily controlled.

Talk to your breast specialist doctor or nurse about any concerns you may have about your


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