Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Scary statistics

The American Cancer Society posted its estimated statistics on new breast cancer cases for 2014:

...estimates for breast cancer in women in the United States for 2014 are:
  • About 232,570 new cases of invasive breast cancer
  • About 62,570 new cases of carcinoma in situ (CIS) of the breast will be found (CIS is non-invasive and is the earliest form of breast cancer).
  • About 40,000 deaths from breast cancer
  • Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States, other than skin cancer. It is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, after lung cancer.

It's scary to be one of the new cases--but I'm grateful that it was discovered at Stage 2 and that I am not one of the 40,000 deaths from breast cancer.

At least not this year.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Now It's Stage 2

Today I went to pick up my Survivorship Resource Binder called Life after Breast Cancer: Easing the Transition.

It was a gift to me for agreeing to be in a study of cancer survivors and reporting on my physical and mental state of being one month after completing radiation treatment (and agreeing to report again six months later).

I finally finished the 10-12 questionnaires and went in to pick up the binder.

The person who gave it to me pointed out the key pages summarizing my case and titled "Cancer Survivorship Care Plan."  They had been written by my doctor a few days earlier.

"Tumor type & stage: Invasive tubular carcinoma, T2"--not a surprise.

But the next line said, "Pathologic stage: Stage II (Early cancer with a good prognosis."

"Stage 2?" I asked.  "I thought it was stage 1."

"No, stage 2," she confirmed.  Like me, she was reading what the report said.  She hadn't written it.

"I didn't know that," I said.

She moved on to review the rest of the treatment plan and then presented the entire printed binder to me.

I accepted it graciously, but afterward in the car I read and re-read the summary of my case.

Stage 2?

"When were you going to tell me this?" I wondered.

Would I ever have known this if I had not agreed to be in the study and received this nice binder?

Stage 2 seems a lot scarier than Stage 1.  I had been so confident all summer because it was "just stage 1."  

I sat in the car and cried.  

What if the doctors at Women's Imaging Center had not suggested an ultrasound after the mammogram?  Was it Dr. Iyengar or Dr. Jabour who made that call?  

What stage would the cancer have been if it had not been discovered until February of 2015?

I will never know the answer to these questions.  My brush with cancer was closer than I thought--and who knows, I may still have some cells of that cancer somewhere in my body, growing and multiplying. 

Studying my books on cancer afterward, I realized that probably the length of the cancer removed was the cause of the change of the estimated stage.  

It was not quite 5 cm long--almost two inches--not the smaller size estimated before surgery.  Probably the stage had been revised to Stage 2 just after the surgery, but no one had told me.