I was diagnosed with triple positive breast cancer in January 2019, followed by 10 months of treatment; neoadjuvant chemotherapy, mastectomy with temporary expander, radiotherapy and endocrine/hormonal therapy. My mom was diagnosed in 2012 with breast cancer, and later passed away of primary lung cancer just 2 years prior to my own cancer diagnosis.
The impact of cancer and treatment on me and my young family was huge, and certainly not one I ever wish to repeat. I was acutely aware that whilst I was clear of the presence of any of the currently known genetic mutations linked to breast cancer, e.g. BRCA 1/2, given my family history, it was not impossible that I could be at a greater risk of developing breast cancer again in the future.
By speaking to a geneticist, who was able to provide a risk assessment around the future likelihood of developing breast cancer, gave me a much better understanding of the interplay of my familial cancer history and my own cancer treatments on the risk levels of occurrence in my opposite, healthy breast. The geneticist was thorough in his assessment and clearly articulated the risk information I was seeking. Being armed with this provided me with greater confidence to evaluate my surgical reconstructive choices and make the right choice for me on a more informed basis.
Whilst genetics allowed me to consider objective factors relating to my surgical choice, the opportunity to speak to a psychologist allowed me to explore more subjective matters. Through reflecting on the existing impact of losing my affected breast on my body image and self-esteem in my daily life, I was able to freely to discuss how different surgical options may affect these factors in the future. The psychologist was empathetic and understanding of the struggles I faced, and allowed me to positively identify the realistic outcomes I hoped to achieve with my reconstructive surgery.
A key objective for me of any further surgery was to minimise the risk of having breast cancer again to as low as possible, whilst balancing this with surgery that would aesthetically support a more positive body image and overall better mental health.
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