NOTE: Since its discovery in 1995, this type of hereditary cancer has changed from one type of cancer, caused by mutations in only one gene to several types of cancer, caused by mutations in any of many different genes. As a result, all labels used to describe this syndrome, such as ''breast cancer gene'', ''BRCA'', ''hereditary breast and ovarian cancer'' and ''HBOC'' tell only part of the story, leaving out well over half of those who are affected. To better serve our patient group, we are in the process of changing our name and updating all resources to reflect the fully inclusive and future forward RISKY GENES™ brand. We ask for your patience during this process.
Maintain honest, two-way communication with your loved ones, doctors and others after your cancer diagnosis. If you and others express yourselves honestly, you can all gain strength from each other.
Before you begin treatment is the best time to plan for changes. Ask your doctor what changes you should anticipate. If drugs will cause hair loss, advice from image experts about clothing, makeup, wigs and hairpieces may help you feel more comfortable and attractive. Insurance often helps pay for wigs, prostheses and other adaptive devices. Members of cancer support groups may be particularly helpful in this area and can provide tips that have helped them and others. If you would like individual or group support, contact us.
Consider how treatment will impact your daily activities. You may need to spend time in the hospital or have frequent medical appointments. If your treatment will require a leave of absence from your normal duties, make arrangements for this.
Be your own best advocate.
Get to know others like you.
During treatment you will need all of your energy to heal. But when you are ready, consider making a difference for yourself, future generations and for others like you by the simple act of adding your voice to our cause. Risky gene carriers need better prevention options, targeted cancer treatments and a world where we are not having to fight for the funding of our services, resources and research.
Often it is not until after treatment that the trauma of everything a survivor has been through really hits home. It takes time to regain energy, deal with body issues or restrictions that treatments have created, and to sort out what the new normal will be. Suggestions are:
■ Ensure you and your doctor have a plan for follow-up medical care
■ Continue to follow a health and fitness plan
■ Find support to cope with your feelings
■ Develop a plan that takes into consideration energy and physical limitations for going back to work and relating with friends and coworkers
Young cancer survivors face many additional challenges that include relational, sexual and fertility issues. Often, the best support is to be in contact with others in the same situation. We can connect you with others like you. You are not alone.
Often friends and family can run errands, provide transportation, prepare meals and help with household chores. Accepting help gives those who care about you a sense of making a contribution at a difficult time.
Also encourage your family to accept help if it’s needed. A cancer diagnosis affects the entire family and adds stress, especially to the primary caregivers. Accepting help with meals or chores from neighbors or friends can go a long way in preventing caregiver burnout.
Try to obtain as much information about your cancer diagnosis as you need in order to make decisions about your care. Purchase a notebook, write down your questions ahead of time, and bring it to every appointment to take notes or, preferably, have a family member or friend do it. Here are some suggestions:
■ What kind of cancer do I have?
■ Where is the cancer?
■ Has it spread?
■ Can my cancer be treated?
■ What other tests or procedures do I need?
■ What is my prognosis?
■ What are my treatment options?
■ What is the past success rate with this treatment?
■ How will the treatment benefit me?
■ What can I expect during treatment?
■ What are the side effects of the treatment?
■ When should I call the doctor?
■ What can I do to prevent my cancer from recurring?
Consider how much you want to know about your cancer. Some people want all the facts and details, so they can be very involved in the decision-making process. Others prefer to learn the basics and leave details and decisions to their doctors. Think about which approach works best for you. Let your health care team know what you’d prefer. Recently,targeted treatments for hereditary cancer have become available, so do your own research and make sure your doctors are up-to-date.
You Are a Patient or Survivor
It has long been known that a healthy lifestyle can not only improve your energy level but support your immune system and help your body fight existing cancer. Reduce or eliminate processed foods and choose a healthy diet high in green vegetables consisting of a variety of foods. Exercise as you are able and ensure adequate rest in order to help you manage the stress and fatigue of the cancer and its treatment.ot alone.
Those with risky genes do not have the same ability to fight cancer, so when it is diagnosed it tends to be aggressive and there is a greater risk of recurrence. We are learning more about what existing therapies work better than others and the importance of stepping up protection against a recurrence. Do your homework and ensure you have medical professionals you can trust who are up-to-date on the latest specialized hereditary cancer treatments, research and recommendations. Learning that you have cancer is a very painful experience, especially hereditary cancer because it means your entire biological family is at risk for also carrying the same risky genes that caused your cancer. After your cancer diagnosis, you may feel anxious, afraid or overwhelmed and wonder how you can cope during the days ahead. If you need support or want to get connected with others like you, please contact us.