Breast Cancer Treatment Survival Rates

Surviving breast cancer is a struggle and a challenge, and the difficulty doesn’t end when the cancer is in remission. Though surviving breast cancer can be physically and emotionally draining, some breast cancer statistics are cause for hope; while breast cancer incidence is rising in North America, survival rates in both men and women have reached an all-time high.

According to the American Cancer Society (2010), the relative overall five-year breast cancer survival rate in women is 89 percent, an increase of 13 percent since the 1980s and up 17 percent since the 1970s. The improvement in the five-year relative survival rate is even more dramatic for localized breast cancer: 98 percent today as compared with 72 percent in the 1940s.

Although relative breast cancer survival rates decrease with time, the prognosis is still promising. Ten-year survival is 82 percent and 15-year survival is 75 percent.

While these statistics are promising, surviving breast cancer requires immediate lifestyle changes and support.

Building a Support Network

If you’ve just been diagnosed with breast cancer, or know someone who has, you’re likely familiar with the sense of trauma and devastation experienced by both the patient and her family. After the initial shock, you’ll need time to grasp the situation and accept the challenge of survival.

A support network–comprised of friends and family, or other survivors and patients–can be invaluable in these times. No matter who makes up your network, ensure they understand the unique challenges you’ll be facing in your battle against cancer. A support network can help you work through anger and fear, as well as the depression that often follows a cancer diagnosis.

Stress Management

A cancer diagnosis can be incredibly stressful and have an exponential effect on the other stressors in your life. In this case, minimize your stress levels, get the help you need and focus on your personal health. Speak with your physician and oncologist about treatment options. Get help organizing your information so you’ll be more comfortable and confident with your treatment decisions.

Stress management includes building an emotional and psychological support network that may include your family, friends, health care team, and members of a support group.

Often, friends and family may want to help you, but they might not understand how to do so. Leaning on your network for day-to-day support is essential to minimize stress levels. Having someone to pick up the kids from school, help you make dinner or just come with you to the doctor can be invaluable.

Surviving Breast Cancer Treatment

Breast cancer treatments can cause anxiety, distress, grief and depression. They can also cause physical side effects, such as illness and loss of appetite. If your treatment is causing significant side effects, your doctor may be able to work with you to minimize these effects or suggest ways you can make yourself more comfortable.

If you need a radical mastectomy, you may be concerned with your physical appearance and may want to know about breast reconstruction and suitable clothing. Breast reconstruction options include implanted prostheses, tissue expansion and flap techniques using layers of muscle and fat. Breast reconstruction can restore a sense of “wholeness” and return your symmetrical appearance. Mastectomy bras and silicone breast forms are also available.

Life After Treatment

Many breast cancer survivors stay in contact with the community of survivors even after their cancer is in remission. Worries about recurrence and feelings of sadness are common, but staying connected with the community can help. Maintaining a support network–either of survivors or otherwise–is crucial to dealing with normal feelings of grief and overwhelm.

Resources

American Cancer Society. (2009). Breast cancer facts and figures 2009-2010. Retrieved October 13, 2010 from http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/content/@nho/documents/document/f861009final90809pdf.pdf

St. Francis Hospital. Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (2002, Summer). Strength in numbers. Covenant: The promise of healthy living, p. 5.

Zatzariny, K. (2002). Coping with cancer: Meeting the challenges of cancer survivorship. Retrieved October 13, 2010, from http://www.oncolink.org/coping/article.cfm?c=7