By Richard Holm MD
The Prairie Doc 

Shed the fear of cancer treatment


January 8, 2020

Mrs. B came into the emergency room one night, years ago, with some stress related issue. After taking her history, I began to suspect there was something else bothering her. As I was beginning her physical exam she blurted out, “I know there is a breast mass but you’re not going to send me to any breast cancer doctor!” She had already decided to avoid standard treatment and her next comment explained why, “My aunt suffered because of awful unnecessary surgery and chemotherapy,” she said. I sensed there was no changing her mind and that meant trouble for my patient.

The story evolved as my patient’s breast cancer grew and eroded through her skin to become a weeping and tender sore. She soon sought out unconventional treatment by a non-physician from a neighboring town with an internet degree of some kind who promised to help her. The treatment involved a curious machine with flashing lights and an unusual noise which apparently indicated which group of herbal supplements the patient needed to buy in order to cure the cancer “naturally.”

More women are diagnosed with breast cancer than any other malignancy, except for skin cancer. If the breast cancer hasn’t spread outside of breast tissue, then, with treatment, the five-year survival is about 99 percent. If the cancer has spread to lymph nodes just outside the breast, then, with treatment, the five-year survival is about 90 percent.

Even if the cancer has spread to distant parts of the body, which happens only in about six percent of the cases, then, with treatment, more than 25 percent are still alive after five years. Since 1989, the number of people who die from breast cancer has been steadily decreasing which is the direct result of improved methods for breast cancer screening, detection and treatment.


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