By: Natasha Archary
October marks breast cancer awareness month. The focus is usually on celebrating a cancer survivor’s journey to remission. Yes that’s a courageous victory but what no one talks about is just how devastating breast cancer can be.
The emotional war that a woman has to endure from diagnosis, throughout treatment is often lost in hindsight. Breasts may not define a woman but they are a part of the female anatomy that is innately linked to her biological role as nurturer.
Behind a mastectomy
Surgical innovations over the past two decades mean that breast cancer patients have a few more options available today. That said, a mastectomy is still considered to be the most effective treatment option.
The type of mastectomy that your doctor may suggest depends largely on:
- General health
- Menopause status
- Tumour size
- Stage (how far it’s spread)
- Grade (the rate it’s spreading)
- Whether or not the lymph nodes are affected
- Tumour’s hormone receptor status
What is a mastectomy?
The surgical removal of your entire breast, including the nipple is how a mastectomy is defined. If the cancer has not spread further than the breast or if you decide to have a preventative mastectomy to decrease your risk of getting breast cancer, then a total mastectomy is what you’re most likely to have.
Studies have shown that women with a predisposition to breast cancer are 90% less likely to get the disease after a preventative mastectomy. When both breasts are removed, this is a double mastectomy and reduces the chance of the cancer spreading to the other breast.
A partial mastectomy is the option for women in the Stage I or Stage II phases. It’s a surgical intervention to conserve the breast in which only the tumour and surrounding tissue is removed.
The psychological trauma of a mastectomy
A woman who has undergone or is to undergo a mastectomy goes through a strenuous emotional journey. Forever changing the way she looks at herself. The loss of her breasts can cause severe depression, questioning her self-esteem and worth, impacting her sex-drive and how she feels about herself as a woman.
A mastectomy affects women mentally as well as physically and one should not ignore the mental therapies as part of post-treatment suggestions.
The additional strain of recovering after a mastectomy is also a factor in the psychological trauma a breast cancer survivor endures.
Coping after a mastectomy
Sure it’s easy to talk about staying positive and reiterating that the procedure was necessary for survival but if you’ve never gone through it personally, don’t be insensitive.
At a breast cancer event earlier this year , many women shared stories of how their partners left them due to the emotional and financial burden that accompanies the illness. Some leaving their wives, mother of their children and partners of many years a few months after diagnosis.
Dealing with the news that your partner has breast cancer is not easy, granted, but it’s not something a woman should have to go through alone. No one should.
Be sure to support this year’s Avon Justine iThemba Walkathon and join in the crusade against breast cancer. Taking place on 21 October, at Marks Park, Emmarentia.