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Friday, November 26, 2021  

In The News: What Happens after Cancer is cured?Published 9/27/2004

When my girlfriend was 35 years-old she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a radical mastectomy and several rounds of chemotherapy. Afterwards, she experienced fatigue, hair loss, anorexia, and depression. During her year-end check-up she was told by her physician that the cancer was gone. Overcome with joy, she and her family counted their blessings and continued on with their lives. Although it took her a couple of years to "feel better," she never complained as she was so thankful to have the cancer gone. When she turned 40 she found a lump in her other breast. After blood work and a biopsy she was told that the cancer "came back." "It was probably from the chemotherapy you had 5 years ago….." she was told. Now facing another radical mastectomy, and more chemotherapy she feared she would not be around to see her teenage children become adults.

Over 10 million Americans are survivors of cancer. However many of these cancer survivors are survivors of not one episode of cancer but two or more. The second bout of cancer usually results from a malignant in situ that metastasized years later, from the very cancer treatment that was supposed to cure the malignancy in the first place. There are constant debates over the effectiveness of cancer treatments, and whether the 5-year-survival-rate is still accurate, in terms of cancer cure success. Over the years studies have concluded that cancer survivors who make it to the 5-year-mark have a greater chance of beating cancer than their counterparts who have reoccurring malignant tumors in less than five years. People today can enjoy a life expectancy of 76; however with the increase life expectancy often comes the potential for an increase in cancer rates. Some reports have stated that 1 out of every 3 individuals will be diagnosed with some form of cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, those over the age of 65 are at greater risk for cancer, and statistics show that 1 out of 6 will live with some form of cancer. The cancer epidemic is paramount.

One would think that surviving cancer is a good thing. However, it is misleading to assume that cancer is cured just because clinical symptoms are gone. Cancer can lay dormant for years, before clinical evidence has surfaced. In addition, once in the lymphatic system (cancer) can have access to any part of the body, where seeding becomes an easy endeavor. Not only are there greater risks of new cancer growths but many cancer survivors complain of ongoing health problems, after the cancer diagnosis has been resolved. Complaints such as: fatigue, depression, and a lack of appetite for example have been documented. Experiencing cancer is a rude-awakening for many survivors, who choose to leave jobs and families in search for a complete life. Now faced with high divorce rates, cancelled insurance plans, and isolation, many cancer patients feel alone and scared of an uncertain future.

There are many cancer treatment facilities all over the United States. However there are very little, to no post-cancer support centers. It is this author’s belief that what is needed are not just cancer treatment facilities but facilities whereby cancer survivors are provided post care support in areas such as: mental health, physical and spiritual strengthening, and stress management, to name a few. Lance Armstrong, a survivor of testicular cancer, has spear-headed a movement towards survivorship centers. His foundation, called "Live Strong" is helping to raise money for cancer survivor care and research. His cancer was made public a few years back when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer during one of his major bike races. He beat the cancer and he has gone on to win many bike races. Currently, he is sponsoring the yellow bracelet, which can be purchased in many convenient stores and helps support his cause for cancer survivor care research. Together we can make a difference in helping cancer survivors live healthier emotional lives.v

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