HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsCan one survive after breast cancer diagnosis?

Can one survive after breast cancer diagnosis?

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A BREAST cancer survivor is often referred to as someone who previously had cancer, but no longer shows signs of the disease.

GUEST COLUMN:Mackintosh Chigumira

However, it can as well refer to an individual living with, through and beyond cancer. This means cancer survivorship begins from a point one is diagnosed with cancer.

Breast cancer has been so much associated with pain, psychological trauma and in worst cases scenarios, death. However the big question still remains, can one can survive the severity of this most dreaded disease? In exploring these possibilities, there are quite a number of factors which are intertwined to define the fate of the victim.

Having a clear understanding of this disease on how it begins, how it grows attacking other surrounding body organs and also when exactly it can completely get out of control becomes key. This means that there is nothing odd that can happen on an individual’s body which can be ignored as it can define one’s fate.

The following key elements are important in the cancer fight:
Cancer awareness

There are symptoms which have been noted to be common among individuals during the onset of cancer from clinical studies and observations. This formulates the basis of what information one must have about cancer and it becomes the push factor to quickly seek medical attention for further clarification and diagnosis. Knowledge is power and that is the reason why advocacy on “Cancer literate Zimbabweans” is on the rise. When cancer is diagnosed at its early stages it becomes easy to manage or even eradicate and this will determine one’s survival.

Many regional and local organisations, and trusts, including Talk Cancer Zim, are tirelessly pushing the agenda to save the nation through imparting the necessary information to the general populace. It is very crucial that this agenda be driven especially at this point and time where focus has been shifted towards the COVID-19 pandemic. The public must as well be watchful and alert not only for the symptoms of the COVID-19, but also of this complex disease.

Early treatment

The secret behind one’s survival after cancer diagnosis is seeking the treatment earlier. Though some cancers can be so complex even at their early stages, at least they will be easier to manage. The common treatment modalities in cancer management in Zimbabwe are surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

All of these modalities can be used to complement one another for an effective treatment outcome. Each step of treatment can be so traumatising since these treatments can be so radical and burdensome to an already stressed cancer patient. Apart from the stress of being diagnosed with cancer, failure to get treatment in time for a number of reasons can destroy a patient’s spirit and reduce their chances of survival.

For example, many people in the country cannot afford the high fees required for surgery and the disease progresses or forces individuals to try alternative medicine. Though radiotherapy can be affordable at government-run radiotherapy centres, 80% of patients still present with advanced stage diseases. It is worrisome since this greatly reduces the patient’s prognosis with a significant margin.

This prognosis can as well be exacerbated by the downtime of the radiotherapy machines at local centres and during this time the disease will be advancing. All things being equal, when one is receiving radiotherapy in time and or concurrently with chemotherapy, it vastly improves chances of survival.

Being diagnosed with breast cancer marks the beginning of one of the toughest journeys of life. However, the good thing is that there are some patients who have stood up and fought hard at every step and up to now they are still surviving. For someone currently battling breast cancer, the following are some of the experiences which most cancer survivors have gone through; Psychological trauma, reduced social connections, financial strain, fatigue, loss of cosmetics, stigmatisation, and hopelessness

Follow-up
The quality of life after breast cancer diagnosis and throughout the treatment is one of the most important prognostic factors. This is because breast cancer survivors are at risk of recurrence of the primary cancer and the development of new cancers. Therefore, eating and lifestyle habits should be monitored including smoking, alcohol consumption and sedentary lifestyle.

Eating of healthy balanced food and exercises can boost the willpower in battling the disease. Also, an assessment of lifestyle behaviours and provision of appropriate counselling becomes vital for achieving cancer survivorship care quality.

The Health ministry can put forward measures through public or private partnerships with quality assurance programmes being implemented so as to monitor and improve the care that all cancer survivors receive. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the needs of cancer survivors should not be thrown under the bus.

They need to stay safe and comfortable in every respect, healthy and making sure they have quick and affordable health checks if need arises especially in this prevailing plaque of the coronavirus.

Though breast cancer survivors are relieved that they have fought cancer vigilantly and remained standing, they still have the society which can be discriminative, leading to reduced social networking and support.

It is, therefore, everyone’s duty to simplify the life of a breast cancer patient in every way possible; materially, financially or psychologically if that cancer patient is to give a testimony one day that will be a healing song for whoever going through such a tough journey.

It is those testimonies from other breast cancer survivors that are giving everyone hope and help to answer the question with a big YES! One can survive after breast cancer diagnosis.

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