THE EDITOR: I write to highlight the plight of breast cancer survivors, more so survivors of triple negative breast cancer.
Triple negative breast cancer does not have any of the receptors that are commonly found in breast cancer.
The receptors usually found in breast cells are: the female hormone estrogen, the female hormone progesterone and a protein called human epidermal growth factor (HER2).
Triple negative breast cancer can only be treated with chemotherapy and radiation after surgery.
The likelihood of recurrence in five years is very high. The psychosocial effects of having breast cancer are:
loss of friends and by extension loss of support, anxiety and stress, depression, fear, loss of self-esteem, isolation due to inability to fight infections as a result of reduction in white blood cells after chemotherapy, inability to perform simple daily duties, loss of income, change in quality of life.
Notwithstanding all of this, the patient has to withstand the side effects of chemotherapy.
The financial effects are enormous, with increased spending due to:
* Change in diet (some patients alter diet to vegan, vegetarian or utilise turkey, chicken or fish)
* Genetic testing ($2,700-$7,500, depending on site referred to)
* Breast enhancers after mastectomy (not available publicly; approximately $10,000 per pair)
* Cleaning agents to sanitise toilets after each use post-chemotherapy
* Comfortable shoes during the experience of peripheral neuropathy post-chemotherapy
* Compression stockings
* Chemotherapy drugs (if not available publicly in order to continue treatment; $1,300 per vial and up)
* PET CT ($12,000, not available publicly)
* Bone scans ($2,000, not available publicly)
* Medication to combat side effects of chemotherapy such as insomnia, nausea, menopause, sore throat, chronic constipation, peripheral neuropathy, reduced red blood cells, reduced white blood cells, reduced neutrophils: zinc, Omega 369, melatonin, feroglobin, evening primrose, various herbal teas, prune juice, prunes, apple juice and medication to combat nausea.
Breast cancer survivors are true warriors!