Monday, November 17, 2008

Bring on the hot flashes.

I've been so cold the last week or so. I know that winter is in the air and you'd think I'd be used to it after living here for 32 years, but I still hate it. Thank God we have a hot tub again.

Today I opted for self-inflicted hot flashes to begin. Ahhh!

I had my consultation with Dr. Bishop, the oncologist. The pathology report indicated that my breast cancer was a 4mm tumor classified as DCIS, hormone positive. That means it was "ductal carcinoma in situ" which in english means the cancer cells were contained to a duct and had not invaded the duct walls, or anything else for that matter. It was very early stage. ***get your screening mammograms, people***

Being hormone receptive means that the cancer cells were spurred on by estrogen. There are different levels of hormone receptive-ness, mine was "highly receptive." This doesn't mean I have excessive levels of estrogen, but that the cancer respondes to and is fed easily by estrogen.

They have a formula for determining what, if any adjuvent therapy is required. This includes, age, genetic risks, tumor classifications etc. Your score will determine whether it's best to leave treatment at just surgery or whether to supplement it with chemo, mastectomy, radiation or hormone therapy etc.

I fell into the borderline radiation category. Dr Bishop suggested that I either opt for radiation or hormone therapy, which means taking Tamoxifen, an anti-estrogen pill, once a day for five years. I could choose to do both but he really felt that was not necessary.

He laid out the benefits and side effects of both and left it up to me. I opted for hormone therapy. He said, "Good. That is the way I would go if it was me deciding." That made we wonder what his response would have been had I opted for radiation. hmmm.

While radiation would have been over with in a couple of weeks, it would only protect the left breast from re-occurrence. By taking the hormone therapy I will also protect the right breast which is susceptible.

Contrary to popular belief, (ok, I don't know if can be called "popular belief" because probably the majority of non-cancer patients know nothing about it) Tamoxifen does not "bring on menopause." In fact it only displays "menopause-like symptoms."

This means that I get to practice having hot flashes, vaginal dryness, irregular and possibly heavy bleeding, tiredness and weight gain for five years, then I'll probably get a year or so of reprieve before I head into menopause for real. By then I should be a pro.

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