As discussed last week, in an effort to kind of lay out the process that a woman goes through when diagnosed with breast cancer, my Mom has been gracious enough to let me talk about her experience. I believe there is some very real relevance in that, if my Mom was a little younger, her diagnosis would be the type of diagnosis that would likely lead to a good likelihood of reasonable life insurance rates post treatment.
Although her treatment may vary from what someone in their 40’s or 50’s might have recommended, I will try to note where those variances occur and how they might differ in a younger woman. As mentioned last week, she underwent a biopsy of several lymph nodes to see if the cancer had spread beyond the breast.
The initial test is called a sentinel node biopsy. Sentinel nodes are those lymph nodes that are the first in line to filter fluid coming from the beast. This is determined by injecting dye into the breast and then tracing where it goes first. In the case of my mother, 6 sentinel nodes were identified and removed for biopsy. 4 of the 6 were found to contain malignant cells.
Since the lymph system was involved, a further biopsy of numerous lymph nodes was done. All of those came back negative for cancer. At this juncture the next step is a visit with a radiation oncologist who will discuss her radiation treatment. She will also meet with a medical oncologist to discuss options such as chemo or drug therapy. This is one of those points where recommendations may vary due to age. A younger woman might get a recommendation of chemotherapy followed by drug therapy. Mom is 84. Chemotherapy is well known for its’ ability bring a young, strong person to their knees both physically and by undermining their immune system. I suspect that chemotherapy will not be recommended.
When my Dad was dealing with bladder cancer last year he was given a dose of chemotherapy and his immune system couldn’t recover quickly enough to be able to continue regular treatments. They suspended the chemo, not wanting to put him at further risk due to the treatment. Thanks to great doctors and a lot of prayer he is doing great.
When a life insurance underwriter considers a breast cancer survivor, he or she will be looking at how far the cancer spread, the stage and grade of the cancer, and the prognosis one to two years post treatment. If the cancer is confined to the breast, that might just be radiation. If it spreads at all it will likely be chemotherapy and radiation. In general today the initial treatment is followed by an ongoing hormone therapy with a drug such as Tamoxifen.
Bottom line. Getting through the breast cancer process is tough at best. My Mom is fortunate to have a great support system and plenty of people praying for her.