Researchers at the University of Michigan Health System found that 30 percent of women who had jobs when they began treatment for breast cancer were unemployed four years later. The study also found that the type of treatment women received had a direct impact on their likelihood of being unemployed. According to the report, women who underwent chemotherapy had a 1.4 times higher chance of unemployment following treatment.
Many people are forced to take time off while getting chemotherapy treatment to deal with extreme fatigue, nausea and other immediate side effects of the therapy. The researchers say it’s possible this could lead to long-term employment problems for a number of reasons. For example, chemotherapy treatments can cause long-term side effects such as neuropathy or cognitive issues, causing a drop-off in work performance.
More than half of the women who had lost their jobs said it was important for them to work and 39 percent said they were actively looking for work. Those who were not working were significantly more likely to report they were worse off financially.
The findings point to the need to reduce the burden of breast cancer treatment and reinforce current efforts to develop better strategies for patients who may not necessarily need chemotherapy to be part of their treatment plan.
New research presented Friday at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium suggests that a low-fat diet may extend the lives of some women with the disease.
The preliminary findings are based on data from early-stage breast cancer patients who volunteered for the Women’s Intervention Nutrition Study. All of the women had surgical treatments and were continuing with various combinations of hormone therapy, chemotherapy and radiation, depending on the characteristics of their tumors.
Among the 2,437 study participants, 975 were randomly assigned to revamp their diets. The goal was to get only 15% of their calories from fat, and to help them in this mission they received eight individual counseling sessions over 16 weeks, followed by check-ins with dietitians once every three months. The other 1,462 women in the study served as controls.
Before the study began, women in both groups were getting an average of 29.6% of their calories from fat. Six years later, the women in the low-fat diet group had reduced that figure to 23%, while their counterparts in the control group crept up to 31.4%. (The women who cut back on fat also lost about 6 pounds, on average.)
Cancer is considered relapsed when disease returns after it has been in remission following treatment, meaning that signs and symptoms have disappeared. Preventing relapse—or achieving relapse-free survival—is of course an important goal of treatment.
Researchers with the British Columbia Cancer Agency recently measured changes in patterns of relapse in breast cancer over the past 30 years. Specifically, they looked at relapse according to estrogen receptor (ER) and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) status, or biomarker status.
Patients involved in the study were divided into two groups. Group one had been diagnosed with Stage I, II, or III breast cancer between 1986 and 1992; group two had been diagnosed between mid-2004 and 2008. All patients had a known ER and HER2 status. Patients in group one were matched for comparison with patients in group two according to stage, grade and ER and HER2 status. The researchers assessed rate of relapse according to biomarker status.
It’s hard to talk about being a breast cancer survivor, because there is still no cure. Your doctor may say that you are in remission. Others of us can say we are NED – No Evidence of Disease, or we’re stable – for those of us that were diagnosed with metastatic disease and are progression-free. The National Cancer Institute defines a cancer survivor this way: “An individual is considered a cancer survivor from the time of diagnosis, through the balance of his or her life. Family members, friends, and caregivers are also impacted by the survivorship experience and are therefore included.”
Survivor: one who remains alive, one who continues to live
A Survivor at Diagnosis
Breast cancer needs time to grow, so when something shows up on a mammogram, or you’re doing your monthly BSE and notice something different, most likely your breast mass has been lurking there for longer than you’d like. Breast cancer doesn’t suddenly blossom when you have your mammogram or breast biopsy – so when you’re diagnosed, you’ve been living with it for a while. In that sense, you’re a survivor right away.
Surviving Treatment and Public Opinion
Debbie, who commented on my blog, told her story of looking for support while only three months out of treatment for breast cancer. She lives in a small rural town, and it has only one general-purpose support group. Eager for answers and advice, and full of ideas, Debbie was shocked when the group’s members rejected her, saying, “You are not yet a survivor — so you are not welcome.” Debbie, who does consider herself a survivor, took the group’s judgment as a challenge, and has decided to “work tirelessly to change ideas and make heath care and all supporting activities available to everyone.”
With their younger and generally healthier population, those in the military tend to have a lower risk for most cancers than civilians, including significantly lower colorectal, lung and cervical cancer rates in certain groups.
But breast cancer is a different story.
“Military people in general, and in some cases very specifically, are at a significantly greater risk for contracting breast cancer,” says Dr. Richard Clapp, a top cancer expert at Boston University. Clapp, who works for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on military breast cancer issues, says life in the military can mean exposure to a witch’s brew of risk factors directly linked to greater chances of getting breast cancer
Stop Breast Cancer Before It Starts!
Karuna Jaggar – Breast Cancer Action
A leading Women’s health issue
Most common cancer after skin cancer
Nearly 1 in 3 cancers diagnosed in women
leading cause of cancer deaths in women
Unequal Burden of Disease
Highest incidence among white women
28% of Alaskan & Native American women’s cancers
Black women are 40% more likely to die
Latina women are 20% more likely to die
WOC also experience greater financial decline
Can’t explain these differences due to screening
Breast cancer survivors who had chemotherapy show changes in brain activity during multitasking chores, according to a new Belgian study.
These findings may partly explain the phenomenon dubbed “chemo brain.” For years, people who’ve had chemotherapy have reported changes in thinking and memory, especially when doing more than one thing at once.
“Before you can fix a problem, you need to know what the problem is. And this study demonstrates what the problem may be. It’s a really good first step to understanding the what. Now we need to understand the why and how to fix it,” said Dr. Courtney Vito, a breast surgeon and assistant clinical professor of surgical oncology at the City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center in Duarte, Calif. Vito was not involved in the current study, but reviewed the study’s findings.
In her experience, Vito said, women tend to be affected more by chemo brain than are men after chemotherapy. However, she said, ”women tend to multitask more, so this might explain part of it.”
The new study was published online May 27 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
Problems with thinking and memory (so-called “cognitive” changes) are a common side effect of chemotherapy, according to background information in the study. The good news is these changes, while real and concerning, often aren’t significant.
Together, these changes can make sexuality an important issue for women returning to normal life after breast cancer treatment. However, despite its importance, sexuality after breast cancer is an often-neglected issue, as many women feel uncomfortable raising the issue with their partner or health professional. The following article aims to provide an overview of some of the issues which may concern you or your partner, and to provide a starting point for discussion of these concerns.
Components of sexuality
Sexuality is a complex idea. It does not refer simply to sexual drive, desire or activity, but also includes the concepts of body image, self-esteem, mood, support, and emotional connection and intimacy. All of these can be affected by a diagnosis of cancer.
After a marathon of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment that may last six months to a year, you can hardly wait to get back to a normal life again. But the day of your last radiation treatment or chemotherapy infusion doesn’t mark the end of your journey with breast cancer.
Instead, you’re about to embark on another leg of the trip. This one is all about adjusting to life as a breast cancer survivor. In many ways, it will be a lot like the life you had before, but in other ways, it will be very different. Call it your “new normal.”
From your relationships with your family and your spouse to eating habits and exercise, breast cancer will change your life in ways that last well after treatment ends. How do you fight lingering fatigue? What should you eat to help prevent a breast cancer recurrence? Will you ever have a regular sex life again? These are just a few of the questions that may nag at you as you make the transition from breast cancer treatment to breast cancer survival.
“Chemobrain” and Other After-Effects
You watched the last dose of chemotherapy drip from the IV into your veins six months ago. Your hair has really started to grow back. Maybe it’s curly where it once was straight, or a lot grayer than before, but it’s hair. You have eyebrows again. So why are you still so tired? When are you going to feel like you again?
“Your body has just been through an enormous assault, and recovery is a huge thing. You’re not going to just bounce back right away,” says oncologist Marisa Weiss, MD, founder of Breastcancer.org and the author of Living Beyond Breast Cancer. “You’ve been hit while you’re down so many times: with surgery and anesthesia, perhaps with multiple cycles of chemotherapy, perhaps with radiation.”
Two of the biggest hurdles women with breast cancer face post-treatment are fatigue resulting from chemotherapy and/or the accumulated effects of other treatments, and a phenomenon some women have dubbed “chemobrain” — mental changes such as memory deficits and the inability to focus. If you tried, you probably couldn’t pick two more frustrating and troubling side effects for women handling busy lives, managing careers, and caring for families.