Author Archives: Jean

Dense Breasts

Following my first mammogram, at 40, the physician reading my films (they weren’t digital back then) called me into her office. She looked very solemn and my heart started pounding as I waited to hear she had found something. “You have dense breasts,” she said. Then she stopped and just looked at me.
Relieved that I hadn’t heard that there was a lump, I exhaled and stared back, waiting for her to explain the significance of what she had just told me.
She explained that having dense breasts was a risk factor for getting breast cancer. She also stated that dense breasts …


Who is Reading Your Mammogram?

Not all mammogram facilities are equal in quality of staff performing the screenings, the equipment and who is reading your mammogram.
It doesn’t matter where your referral comes from. It does matter where you have your mammogram. You need to do your due diligence. You need to check out the facility recommended to you by a health care professional or a friend.
You want to make sure that you choose a facility that is accredited under the Mammography Quality Standards Act.  The American College of Radiology (ACR) is the accrediting body for most states. It has requirements that facilities must meet in …


Cognitive Issues Following Breast Cancer Treatment

Until recently, it was considered that only women and men who had chemo as part of their treatment for breast cancer might have cognitive issues as survivors. A new study challenges that theory, pointing to survivors who did not have chemo also experiencing cognitive problems after treatment.
An article in Science News, published in December 2011, reports a study found that breast cancer survivors may experience problems with certain cognitive abilities several years after treatment. This may occur whether they were treated with chemotherapy plus radiation or radiation only.
I found the article of particular interest as I did not have chemo, …


The Only Time I Cried

During my years as a navigator, I saw and heard many things that had me close to tears. But, there was only one time when I couldn’t help myself; I lost it. I broke down and cried. I had to excuse myself and leave the chemo infusion room.
Making the rounds, from chair to chair, in the infusion center, I stopped to visit with Madeline. She looked frailer than when I saw her the week before. She had an aggressive breast cancer that was at an advanced stage by the time she sought care.
Madeline had been through so much. A single …


Breast Cancer Time Outs

When you are going through treatment you need to take as many time outs from all things breast cancer as your schedule permits and you can physically handle. You will feel the better for it emotionally.
Even the smallest escapes help; sitting in a movie theater viewing an upbeat movie, or watching  TV without interruptions, or curling up with  a good book for a few hours.
On days that you feel up to it, get out and do something that you enjoy, something you did regularly before breast cancer treatment. If you feel your best when you get up in the morning, …


Sexual Activity After Breast Cancer

I read a review of research published in Maturitas an international science journal dedicated to research about midlife health and beyond. The article focused on sexuality after breast cancer.
Summarizing the research findings in a sentence …women get little support to help them maintain intimacy while going through treatment or restoring intimacy after active treatment is over.
Sexuality remains the taboo subject.
The review, which analyzes studies from 1998 to 2010, concluded that the sexual needs of women with breast cancer are rarely addressed in a clinical setting. The reasons given vary; health professionals either don’t know how to, or don’t feel comfortable, …


Older Women and Aromatase Inhibitors

One of the studies presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Summit in 2011 dealt with the possible cause-effect relationship of severe side effects of aromatase inhibitors in older breast cancer survivors and why so many of these women stop taking these drugs that can help prevent a recurrence.
The study was of particular interest to me as I was put on Arimidex, an aromatase inhibitor, after my second breast cancer. Having been on tamoxifen for five years after my first cancer, I was prepared for side-effects, but didn’t expect them to be as severe as they were. Significant weight gain, …


Things to Remember Following a Mastectomy

Those of us who have had a mastectomy or bilateral mastectomy need to be aware of certain situations that can occur after having a breast or breasts removed. What follows is a list of some of these things:
Phantom Breast Pain – You may have a  feeling pain in the breast that has been removed.
Phantom breast pain can happen after mastectomy for the same reasons phantom pains happen after limb amputations. The brain continues to send signals to nerves in the breast area that were cut during surgery, even though the breast is no longer there.
Phantom breast pain after a mastectomy …


Specific Needs Sites

There are those of us who have specific needs over and above the needs we all have for breast cancer information, support and resources.
This post is about some of the breast cancer sites that offer guidance to women with specific needs.
When a woman who has children at home is diagnosed with breast cancer, she has special issues and concerns that women with grown children do not have.
There is a site… that helps women speak to their children, whatever their ages, about breast cancer.
Some women of color often have specific issues around breast cancer such as limited access to screening and …


Breast Cancer’s Toll on African-American Women

According to the National Cancer Institute, NCI, nearly 27,000 African-American women are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. While they are less likely than white women to be diagnosed with breast cancer, they are more likely to die from it than any other race and are more likely to be diagnosed at an advanced stage.
Lack of medical coverage, unequal access to improved treatments, and barriers to early detection and screening, account for the striking racial disparities according to NCI. Across the board, the death rate for all cancers combined is 25 percent higher for African-American women than …