Guideline #3 For Young Women With Breast Cancer: Explaining the Impact of Treatment
The third guideline in Rethink’s Care Guidelines For Young Women With Breast Cancer focuses on the physical and emotional impact of cancer treatment on young women, and the need for appropriate support and resources to help cope with these challenges.
Here are two statements from members of our Rethink Young Women’s Network about the importance of Guideline #3 and how these issues have affected them personally.
“As a metastatic patient in my 20’s the side effects from early menopause, effects on fertility and the side effects from my medication on my mental function all contribute to my quality of life.
Since there is no end to treatment these factors will always contribute negatively to my life. If we are treating this disease based solely on “quality of life” with no intention to cure, then shouldn’t these side effects be just as important to discuss as the side effects that can harm me?
Nobody mentions anything about mood changes and suddenly I’m like a completely different person and my husband is scared of me! These side effects don’t only affect me (which I could live with a lot easier) — they affect everyone around me, and therefore it’s extremely important to me.”
-Judit, diagnosed at age 26 & 28 with metastatic breast cancer
“Being diagnosed with breast cancer as a young woman changes EVERYTHING. It impacts hopes, dreams, identity, and body. It’s critical that primary health care workers understand that women with breast cancer need counselling about both the physical and emotional impact of treatment.
When I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in 2011 my oncologist was very clear about the immediate physical effects of cancer treatment. What was missing was an acknowledgement that I would need ONGOING emotional support to cope with the grief and loss that accompanies cancer.
It was a loss that my breast was scarred.
It was a loss that I had to quit nursing cold turkey.
It was a loss that I gave up my position of responsibility at work that I had worked so hard to get.
It was a loss to have early menopause and know I would never have more children.
It was a loss I was facing my mortality and a median survival of 36 months at age 37.
My husband shared these losses with me. Neither of us was offered long-term professional support. I was told psychosocial oncology was reserved for palliative cases.
The result of not being given professional counselling support is that I have become majorly depressed. This compounds the negative impact of breast cancer on the quality of my life.
I am now receiving the psychosocial treatment I wish I had been encouraged to take at diagnosis. It is helping me to cope with my grief and get back to a quality of life that is worth living.
Breast cancer patients should never endure the mental health anguish I’ve experienced. It should be a standard of care.”
-Laura, diagnosed at age 37