The C Word
With this being my personal blog, I wanted to touch on what cancer I had, how I found it, the type and what stage they caught it.
The stage and grade is very important as it determines what treatment you have and whether it can be treated.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer, which was located in my left breast. I had two lumps, one was 4cm and the other was 2cm. I noticed the lumps in my breast whilst I was having a shower, but thought it was blocked ducts from where I breastfed my daughter. I left it for a while but then when I was lying on the sofa, something made me feel the lumps and I can honestly say ,I felt sick to my stomach the moment I touched it. I went to my doctor the next day and was seen by the breast clinic at St Helens hospital within a few days. My intuition saved my life, and obviously the medical staff!
After the scans, biopsies and blood tests, I was diagnosed with stage 3, grade 3 breast cancer. At the point of my diagnosis, they confirmed the cancer was triple negative (was not caused by hormones). If your cancer is hormone positive it's called ER, PR or HER2. ER positive cancers grow in response to the hormone Oestrogen and PR positive grows in response to Progesterone. HER2 is where the cancer tests positive for a protein called epidermal growth factor receptor 2.
I later found out that my cancer was actually 10% hormone positive.
As mentioned above, the stage of the cancer at the point of diagnosis is very important for determining what treatment you receive. The stage of my cancer at diagnosis was 3 (the cancer is larger and may have spread to the surrounding tissues and/or the lymph nodes).The cancer had spread to the lymph nodes under my left arm.
The staging of cancer is from 0 to 4:-
Stage 0 - indicates that the cancer is where it started (in situ) and hasn't spread.
Stage I - the cancer is small and hasn't spread anywhere else.
Stage II - the cancer has grown, but hasn't spread.
Stage III - the cancer is larger & may have spread to the surrounding tissues/lymph nodes.
Stage IV - the cancer has spread from where it started to at least one other body organ.
Details above are based on the information provided on NHS website.
The grade of my cancer was 3, which is very aggressive. Medical professionals use grades to determine how aggressive the cancer is. The grades are measured from 1-3. Grade 1, the cancer cells grow at a slow pace (very common for the older generation) but grade 3, is very aggressive, which the cells grow at a fast pace (common in young children and adults).
My treatment plan was to be for a total of 10 months, this included 6 months of extensive chemotherapy (3 months of Carboplatin and Paclitaxel, then a further 3 months of Adriamycin, known as red devil). I had surgery to remove my left breast and 15 rounds of radiotherapy to my armpit, neck and breast area.
I opted for a full mastectomy and reconstruction (I needed a full psychological evaluation as my right breast was not affected), which has been delayed until later this year. I have opted for the more unconventional route for a reconstruction. They will be using the fat from my bum and inner thigh to provide me with a full pair of breasts. When this time comes, I will provide a blog/vlog of the stages and outcome.
Going back to the treatment, I now have to take a tablet every day (Tamoxifen), which is a medication that is used to prevent breast cancer in women and treat breast cancer in women and men. It is also being studied for other types of cancer.
In a nut shell, I take this tablet every day to reduce the risk of my cancer coming back. It is only beneficial for patients who had or have a hormonal cancer. Although my cancer was only 10% hormonal, my oncologist believes I will benefit from taking the tablets.
For more information on what I have discussed above, you can visit the NHS or Macmillan website - links below:-
I cannot stress how important it is to check your breasts. You don't need to check them every day or week even, but I would suggest every month. Maybe choose a particular date (I chose the 1st of every month). Any changes you notice, even if they are slight, please book an appointment with your doctor. Don't think you are wasting the doctors time. It is better to be safe and get yourself checked.