Tag Archives: breast cancer diagnosis

The CA 15-3 Cancer Marker Test And Its Accuracy

Image Source: rgbstock.com / Littleman

Image Source: rgbstock.com / Littleman

The CA 15-3 Cancer Marker Test And Its Accuracy

Women who have been through treatments for breast cancer are normally followed for five years to monitor their status and one of the tests frequently done by doctors is the CA 15-3 marker test. In this article I will share some information about the CA 15-3 test, discuss the accuracy of the test, and some new research.

What Is The CA 15-3 Cancer Marker Test?

CA 15-3 stands for cancer antigen 15-3 which is a protein produced by normal breast cells.  Some  people – not all – with cancerous breast tumors have an increased production of CA 15-3.  The protein does not cause or promote cancer, rather copies of it are cast off by tumor cells, the copies then enter the bloodstream and can be detected through a blood sample.

CA 15-3 Not That Reliable For Early Stage Breast Cancer

The problem with the CA 15-3 test is that it is not all that reliable, particularly for early breast cancer.  One source indicated that CA 15-3 is elevated in only about 10% of women with early localized breast cancer, while another source indicated the figure was 30%.  CA 15-3 levels can also be completely absent in early-stage breast cancer, making it quite difficult to rely upon this test for early stage cancers or those tumors that do not express the antigen.

A 1999 Italian study comparing the CA 15-3 test with another marker test, the CA 27-29, found that “CA27.29 discriminates primary breast cancer from healthy subjects better than CA15.3, especially in patients with limited disease.” 1

Other Conditions Can Cause Elevated CA 15-3 Levels

CA 15-3 levels can also be elevated in healthy people, as well as in people with other cancers such as lung, pancreas, colon, ovary, or prostate.  Elevated levels are also seen in benign breast disease, cirrhosis, hepatitis, tuberculosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis – and this is by no means an exhaustive list.

CA 15-3 More Useful In Metastatic Breast Cancer, Response To Treatment

For those with metastatic breast cancer, the CA 15-3 test does tend to be a bit more reliable an indicator, being elevated in 50-90% of those with breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, particularly when metastases to the bones or liver exist.  One French study 2 found that 42% of women with metastases present had normal CA 15-3 levels, however.

The CA 15-3 test tends to be most useful for deciding whether a certain treatment is assisting the patient or not, as a decrease in CA 15-3 levels during treatment such as chemotherapy tells the doctor that the tumor is responding to the treatment, while a stable or increasing marker level may indicate that the tumor has not responded as well (or at all) to the treatment.

While it can be worrisome to the patient to be monitored for CA 15-3 – especially if the marker keeps rising over a period of time and various other tests have not picked up cancer activity – it can be a sign for the patient to be more proactive with their anti-cancer regimen rather than waiting for the development of physical symptoms.  Knowing levels are rising early on can have a huge impact on therapies chosen and survival.

New Study Indicates A Combo Of Marker Tests More Specific

A March 2015 study 3 indicated that a combination of 3 marker tests was more useful.  204 disease-free breast cancer patients who had undergone mastectomy were followed and monitored for an average of 3.7 years with a combination of three marker tests.  Researchers employed the CA 15-3, one called TPA (for tissue polypeptide antigen, more on that below), and one called CEA (for carcinoembryonic antigen, more on that below).  This study indicated that “the sensitivity of the CEA-TPA-CA15.3 tumor marker panel was 93%, the specificity was 97.6% and the rate of false ‘warning signals’ per year of follow-up was 9 per 100 patients.”

In addition to the above study, another smaller but interesting Iraqi study on women with breast cancer indicated that tissue polypeptide antigen (TPA) levels were a good indicator of disease progression, as well as tumor response. 4

The carcinoembryonic antigen test (CEA) was studied in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer treated with chemotherapy.  The researchers reported that low levels of CEA were indicative of progression-free survival. 5

Obviously, new marker tests are being discovered and researched.  A study yet to be published in the Journal of Proteomics 6 reported that there was a necessity for the identification of new markers for breast cancer that could lead to early detection and also provide evidence of effective treatment.  The researchers examined 1,020 polypeptides and discovered 78 that were overexpressed in all cancer lines. This kind of forward-thinking research may help us to discover new and better ways of identifying earlier the existence of breast cancer as well as response to treatments.

In the meantime, and to sum up, please be aware that a CA 15-3 tumor marker test on its own does not provide enough information to screen for the presence of breast cancer.  Normal levels do not ensure the absence of localized or metastatic breast cancer, further tests should be employed.

2017 Update: See also my article The Telomerase Test for Monitoring Breast Cancer.




1.  Comparison of the Diagnostic Accuracy of CA27.29 and CA15.3 in Primary Breast Cancer – http://www.clinchem.org/content/45/5/630.short

2.  Value of CA 15-3 determination in the initial management of breast cancer patients – http://annonc.oxfordjournals.org/content/20/5/962.2.full

3.  An individual reference limit for ‘early’ diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer during postoperative follow-up – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25808435

4. Tissue polypeptide antigen & interleukin-6: Are their serum levels a predictor for response to chemotherapy in breast cancer? – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25225536

5.  The Association of Serum Carcinoembryonic Antigen, Carbohydrate Antigen 19-9, Thymidine Kinase, and Tissue Polypeptide Specific Antigen with Outcomes of Patients with Metastatic Colorectal Cancer Treated with Bevacizumab: a Retrospective Study – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25875421

6.  Determination of the protein expression profiles of breast cancer cell lines by quantitative proteomics using iTRAQ labelling and tandem mass spectrometry – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25918110

GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right.  You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates.  I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.  

How To Stop A Panic Attack

How To Stop A Panic Attack

I have been working with a number of people newly diagnosed with breast cancer, several of whom are suffering from panic attacks, so I thought it might be useful to post some information on how to stop a panic attack.

Because they can be so frightening, so debilitating and disruptive to your life, a panic attack is definitely not to be ignored.

Teal Swan To The Rescue

I had in mind to create a video with specific breathing exercises and other information, but I happened upon Teal Swan’s YouTube video “How To Stop A Panic Attack” and she has done such a good job at describing not only what causes an anxiety attack, tips on how to deal with them when they arise, as well as other holistic changes you can incorporate to help yourself heal from them, that I decided “why reinvent the wheel” and decided simply to share her video here.

Teal Swan, if you are not familiar with her, is an amazing young woman.  She calls herself The Spiritual Catalyst and offers advice on many different subjects.  She is incredibly wise for someone so young.  You can read more about her life’s journey here.

So without further ado, if you are experiencing a lot of anxiety or panic over your breast cancer diagnosis, please take nineteen minutes to view this video, I believe it really will help you (or at the very least, steer you in the right direction).

If you do continue to suffer with panic and anxiety, let’s connect. Sometimes all you need is a really good healing plan to subdue those fears and anxieties.  I would be honored to help you with that.  Please go to my page describing my breast cancer coaching services.

GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right. You can also “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates. I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.

How To Support Someone With Breast Cancer – Part 2, Treatment Phase

Image Source: freedigitalphotos.net / artur84

Image Source: freedigitalphotos.net / artur84

How To Support Someone With Breast Cancer – Part 2, Treatment Phase

If someone you know has just received a breast cancer diagnosis, and you are looking for tips on how best to support them, this series of articles is offered to provide you with some inspiration.

The Treatment Phase

This second article (in a series of 3) will offer some help for supporting the person who is going through treatments for breast cancer.

And kudos to you for being the support person!  It’s not always an easy job.

My best friend took on that role so that my husband could keep working and stay focused on his role of sole provider for the both of us while I was going through breast cancer treatments.  Some of the things she did for me will be included here because they were just so darned beneficial to me.

19 Things You Can Do To Genuinely Help During the Treatment Phase

  1.  If your friend needs surgery, find out what kind of food they will be offered in the hospital – quite often hospital food is so processed, there’s no way it is going to help someone heal quickly.  Bring your friend some freshly prepared organic vegetable soup with beans or organic chicken in it (beans and chicken have lots of protein and protein is needed so that the surgical site can repair quickly).  Include some shiitake mushrooms, they help to boost immunity.
  2.   Offer to cook nutritious meals for them.  Find out what they are eating, because if they are going through chemotherapy, there might be a lot of things off the menu for them due to mouth sores, indigestion issues, etc.  Choose organic whole foods that have little to no sugar in them.  Sugar feeds cancer cells, so something high in carbohydrates (like your favorite tuna casserole) is not a good idea.  Deliver the food in disposable containers that are not expected to be returned.
  3. If they are juicing, offer to come over and wash and prepare the vegetables and other produce for fitting down the juicer slot.  Do enough for a week, this can be a very tiring part of the cancer patient’s day but oh-so-necessary for recovery.
  4. If they are going through chemotherapy, offer to go to their treatment sessions with them.  While there, do your best to keep them in a cheery state of mind.  Take along a joke book or something to make them laugh.  I always took freshly prepared juices with me – they would put the chemotherapy in and I’d be drinking healthy juices to help protect me from the toxicity.  One proviso – if you are sick yourself or suspect you may have been exposed to something, please excuse yourself, because your germs will not help someone who is immuno-compromised.
  5. Take them shopping for needed items.  They may be too tired to do it themselves but having a friend nearby for energy and reassurance can make a big difference.
  6. Every week, send them a beautiful card with an inspirational message in it.  Communication means everything to someone going through these treatments and this kind of thing – easy enough to do – can make the difference in someone’s otherwise depressing day.
  7. If you are out of town, send them a gift card to a local, favorite restaurant.  Not having to cook after a chemotherapy or radiation session can mean the world to them.  You could also send them a movie gift card or a gift certificate to a local spa so they can get a massage.
  8. Make a chemo gift basket filled with things to help them pass the time during treatments – crossword puzzles, books, magazines, iTunes gift cards.  If you know they will have a family member with them, maybe include a book or magazine that would appeal to that person as well.
  9. If the weather is cold, giving a hat, a beautiful scarf, cozy socks or a handmade cozy blanket would be very much appreciated.
  10. If the weather is hot, hydration is important, so give them a beautiful water bottle that doesn’t sweat.  Also a personal misting fan works great for the associated hot flashes that occur because of the treatments.  I love these.
  11. Give the gift of your time.  Just go sit and be with her.  Bring flowers.  Hold her hand and listen to her tale of woes.  Or help her to find some humor in the situation.  Just be there, understand and care.  Give her a hug.  Be aware she might have “chemobrain”.  People on chemo tend to be a little forgetful. Realize you may have to repeat things to her, and understand it’s part of the process. Just be there for her, and let her know that you care.
  12. If your loved one doesn’t have a regular housekeeper, perhaps hire a maid service, one time or regularly.  Or while visiting, you could offer to do some clean-up yourself (be prepared for resistance – they may not want to accept the help!).  Be persistent, but be prepared to accept it if they aren’t comfortable with it.
  13. Offer to do some gardening – mowing the lawn, pulling out weeds, chopping wood, trimming back overgrown bushes – all of these can be overwhelming for a person going through cancer treatments.  Make sure you get permission first though – there’s nothing worse than chopping back something that looks like a weed but turns out to be their favorite plant in the garden.
  14. If your loved one has children, offer to take them somewhere special or to the movies, or bring them something special when you visit.  This helps your loved one have time to rest and it gives the children a break from the “sick house” when they can just be kids.
  15. Order a comedy CD or DVD on Amazon and have it sent to your loved one.
  16. Do some research on treatment options – your loved one might not have the brain power or patience to do this. Enlist the help of a naturopath, if need be, or a cancer coach.
  17. Help your loved one find a good support group.  Research indicates that women who join support groups while going through breast cancer have a much longer life expectancy than someone who does not, so support groups offer some very real, quantifiable results (I think it’s all those hugs given and received!).  To find out where the closest ones are, organizations like the American Cancer Society, CancerCare and Cancer Support Community offer support groups in person, online and through hotlines.  Their oncologist may also be aware of support groups in the area, so ask.
  18. If your loved one is going through radiation treatments, make sure they know about the healing effects of aloe vera, calendula and lavender to combat the burning of the skin caused by the radiation.
  19. Give them an hour with a breast cancer coach, someone who has been through this journey and has loads of tips and information, the latest research, and knows which natural therapies work and which ones aren’t so great, someone who can help them kick-start the healing process.

I hope this article helps someone out there.  If you would like to add your idea to the list, please feel free in the comments section.  You might also find some assistance within the pages of this website.

GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free newsletters and e-books on the right.  You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates.  

Eating Organic – So Important With A Breast Cancer Diagnosis!

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net / stockimages
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net / stockimages

Eating Organic – So Important With a Breast Cancer Diagnosis!

According to a report I was reading the other day by Consumer Reports, spending on organic products has risen by nearly 20% over the past decade and nearly 2/3 of American consumers purchase at least some organic products.  I find that to be good news, it means that consumers are voting with their purchases that they are no longer willing to allow tainted foods and products into their households.  If you have a breast cancer diagnosis, eating organic becomes doubly important.

Why Is It So Important To Be Eating Organic If You Have Breast Cancer?

First, for the simple fact that many of the toxins that are being sprayed and injected into our food supply are being linked to the development of cancer.  Organic food doesn’t contain pesticides, heavy metals, dangerous industrial chemicals, artificial flavors, artificial colors, preservatives, bovine growth hormones or antibiotics. 

We, as a human race, have only encountered the 100,000+ chemicals added to our food chain and animals in the last 70 years or so – right about when the incidence of all kinds of cancers began to increase.   Our bodies have no way at all to deal with these dangerous chemicals.

Organic certification is your assurance that products have been grown and handled according to strict procedures without toxic chemicals.  When you see that a product has been certified organic, it’s your best bet that the product, its ingredients and the manufacturer have gone through a thorough investigation.

Second, when you have breast cancer, your immune system is already compromised, it’s under attack.  You don’t want to be putting anything into it (or on it) that will cause any further harm or detriment.

What Foods You Should Buy Organic

There are times when you just can’t buy organic – either it’s not available in your small town, or you are traveling, or you just don’t have the extra money for organically grown foods.  Here’s a list of the things you should definitely be buying organic, especially if you are fighting breast cancer, have babies or small children, because their small body size means toxins can accumulate quickly:

  1. Meat – organically grown meat reduces your chances of contracting mad cow disease (always fatal), and organic meat and poultry must be fed grain that was grown without chemical fertilizers or pesticides.
  2. Dairy Products – including yogurt, ice cream, milk, butter, cheese, cottage cheese
  3. These Fruits – the most highly sprayed fruits are peaches, apples, strawberries, pears, cherries, grapes and nectarines.  Buy these organically grown whenever possible.
  4. These Vegetables – the most highly sprayed vegetables are bell peppers (capsicum), cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans, celery, spinach, lettuce, potatoes.  Buy organically grown when you can.
  5. Eggs – It’s true that happy chickens lay the best eggs.  Organic eggs come from chickens that are allowed to roam freely in a yard not treated with chemicals, they are fed with organic feed and not pumped with chemicals or given antibiotics.
  6. Coffee and Tea – Most people don’t think about this, but coffee and tea is generally grown in countries that don’t regulate the use of pesticides or fertilizers.  One more consideration – look for the Fair Trade Practices label that most organic coffee and tea carries.  This indicates that the people who produced the coffee beans or tea leaves were paid fairly and treated well.
  7. Baby Food – Babies and small children are particularly susceptible to the harmful effects of pesticides, antibiotics and hormones.  Baby food is often made of condensed vegetables and fruit, so the level of any chemicals found on the food is magnified.  Please buy organic for our little ones, or better yet (kudos to my daughter-in-law who does this), make your own with organic produce and freeze it.
  8. Almonds, Peanuts, Pecans, Soy Foods – All tend to be highly sprayed.

Foods You Don’t Really Have To Buy Organic

Because these foods have thick peels or protective coverings, or are not as highly sprayed, they are generally not as crucial to buy organically grown:

  1. Asparagus
  2. Avocados
  3. Bananas
  4. Blueberries
  5. Broccoli
  6. Cabbage
  7. Cantaloupe
  8. Cashews
  9. Cauliflower
  10. Eggplant
  11. Garlic
  12. Kiwi
  13. Macadamia Nuts
  14. Mango
  15. Onions
  16. Papaya
  17. Peas
  18. Pineapple
  19. Rhubarb
  20. Sweet corn – I’m on the fence about this one, though, because so much corn in the USA is now GMO and we don’t even have labeling laws to protect us from that.  I still buy sweet corn organically grown.
  21. Sweet potatoes
  22. Watermelon
  23. Zucchini

I hope you found this article helpful!

If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters and e-book on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com).  It is my honor and my goal to help you through this so that you emerge from breast cancer feeling better than before, thriving!

An Explanation of Breast Cancer Staging

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and marin
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and marin

An Explanation of Breast Cancer Staging

If you have just been diagnosed with breast cancer, you will be anxious to learn in which stage your surgeon considers you to be, because that will more than likely determine the treatment protocol suggested for you.  Your pathology report will discuss staging

The term “staging” refers to the extent of the disease and this is based on several factors – the size of the tumor, whether any lymph nodes are involved, whether the tumor is considered to be invasive or non-invasive, and whether the cancer has spread beyond the breast.

I found a great You Tube video explaining this in detail and the animation is interesting and helpful.  It seems there is a You Tube video for everything these days!

Breast Cancer Staging

Stage 0 – The cancer cells are non-invasive, such as Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS), and there is no evidence that the cancer cells have spread into neighboring breast tissue or beyond the lobule or duct.

Stage I – This is an early stage of invasive breast cancer, divided into two classifications, IA and IB:

     IA – the tumor is up to 2 cm and the cancer has not spread outside the breast and no lymph nodes are involved.

     IB – there is no tumor in the breast but there are small groups of cancer cells, larger than 0.2 mm but not larger than 2 mm, found in the lymph nodes; OR there is a tumor in the breast that is no larger than 2 cm, and there are small groups of cancer cells, larger than 0.2 mm but not larger than 2 mm, in the lymph nodes

Stage II – Invasive breast cancer, divided into two classifications, IIA and IIB:

     IIA – There are three scenarios in Stage IIA:

  • no tumor is found in the breast, but cancer (larger than 2 mm) is found in 1-3 axillary lymph nodes (the lymph nodes under the arm) or in the lymph nodes near the breast bone (found during a sentinel node biopsy); OR
  • the tumor measures 2 cm or smaller and has spread to the axillary lymph nodes; OR
  • the tumor is larger than 2 cm but not larger than 5 cm and has not spread to the axillary lymph nodes.

     IIB – There are also three scenarios in Stage IIB:

  • the tumor is larger than 2 cm but no larger than 5 cm; small groups of breast cancer cells, larger than 0.2 mm but not larger than 2 mm, are found in the lymph nodes; OR
  • the tumor is larger than 2 cm but no larger than 5 cm; cancer has spread to 1-3 axillary lymph nodes or to lymph nodes near the breastbone (found during a sentinel node biopsy); OR
  • the tumor is larger than 5 cm but has not spread to the axillary lymph nodes.

Stage III – This is considered locally advanced cancer (where large tumors have involved the breast skin, underlying chest structures, changes to the breast’s shape, and lymph node enlargement that is visible or that your doctor can feel during an exam) and is split into 3 classifications, IIIA, IIIB and IIIC:

     IIIA – There are three scenarios in Stage IIIA:

  • no tumor is found in the breast, or the tumor may be any size; cancer is found in 4-9 axillary lymph nodes or in the lymph nodes near the breastbone (found during imaging tests or a physical exam); OR
  • the tumor is larger than 5 cm; small groups of breast cancer cells (larger than 0.2 mm but not larger than 2 mm) are found in the lymph nodes; OR
  • the tumor is larger than 5 cm; cancer has spread to 1-3 axillary lymph nodes or to the lymph nodes near the breastbone (found during a sentinel lymph node biopsy)

     IIIB – There are two scenarios in Stage IIIB:

  • the tumor may be any size and has spread to the chest wall and/or skin of the breast and caused swelling or an ulcer, and may have spread to up to 9 axillary lymph nodes; OR
  • may have spread to lymph nodes near the breastbone.

     IIIC – There are three scenarios in Stage IIIC:

  • there may be no sign of cancer in the breast or, if there is a tumor, it may be any size and may have spread to the chest wall and/or the skin of the breast, and the cancer has spread to 10 or more axillary lymph nodes; OR
  • the cancer has spread to lymph nodes above or below the clavicle (collarbone); OR
  • the cancer has spread to axillary lymph nodes or to lymph nodes near the breastbone.

Stage IV – The cancer has spread (metastasized) from the breast to other organs and other parts of the body.

Inflammatory breast cancer is generally considered to be Stage IIIB, at least.   Symptoms of IBC include:

  • reddening of a large portion of the breast skin
  • the breast feels warm and may be swollen
  • cancer cells have spread to the lymph nodes and may be found in the skin.

Information courtesy of breastcancer.org

The most important thing to remember is not to panic, regardless of which stage you are considered to be.  YOU CAN COME BACK FROM THIS AND BE PERFECTLY HEALTHY.  I have a friend who brought herself back from Stage 4 breast cancer, so I know it can be done.  Will it be easy?  No.  You will need to be extremely proactive and involved with every stage of your healing process.  But it can be done.

I send my love to everyone taking this journey right now. If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com) and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond. 

17 Year Old Brittany Wenger & Why We Need More Like Her

Brittany Wenger
Brittany Wenger

Diverted this afternoon by an online article about this bright young mind, I decided to introduce you to her.  Her name is Brittany Wenger from Lakewood Ranch, Florida.  She’s only 17, but she recently won Google’s Science Fair Grand Prize for her breast cancer diagnosis app.

The Breast Cancer Diagnosis App

Brittany wrote a computer program, called a “neural network” which she designed to mimic the human brain.  In her words for her summary of the project: “Artificial neural networks detect patterns too complex to be recognized by humans and can be applied to breast mass malignancy classification when evaluating Fine Needle Aspirates (FNAs).  This project teaches the cloud how to diagnose breast cancer by implementing a custom-crafted neural network that consumes FNA data collected by the University of Wisconsin to answer the question – is a mass malignant or benign?”.

The problem with the FNA is that it’s often one of the least precise diagnosis tools.  It’s quite easy for the needle to miss the mass or tumor and thus the cancer cells the technician is trying to detect. Often, if FNA results are not clear, the patient has to undergo a second biopsy with a larger needle or even much more invasive surgery.  Brittany’s plan was to boost the less-invasive test’s success rates.

If Brittany’s information about her app is correct, her program will be able to quickly and correctly identify 99% of malignant tumors and improve breast cancer diagnosis results.  That’s pretty darned exciting.

You can read her project summary here (and make sure you see the video on the “Step 1” page.  Brilliant.

What is an Artificial Neural Network?

Artificial Neural Networks (ANNs) are programs built to model the brain’s neural syntax structure.  They have the ability to learn, to understand the meaning of complicated data, and can be used to detect patterns too complex for a human or another computer program to notice.

Young people like Brittany give me hope for the future.

If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com).  It is my honor to help you through this.

How To Tell Your Child You Have Breast Cancer

how to tell your child you have breast cancer
Image Source: stock.xchng / pat138241

 How To Tell Your Child You Have Breast Cancer

A few of my newly diagnosed readers have intimated to me that they are having some difficulty with how to tell their children they have breast cancer.  I do have a little experience with this, and I have asked a friend, a child psychologist, for some advice.  Here are our best tips on how to tell your child you have breast cancer.  My heart goes out to everyone concerned.

To Tell Or Not To Tell…

Experts recommend that the sooner you tell your children that you have breast cancer, the better.  Mothers may not want to distract their children from their daily activities or be a cause of them worrying, but older children especially deserve to be told.

Children are very perceptive and know that you are not feeling well, so not talking about your breast cancer may bring on anxiety and fear for them.  Telling them shows your children that you have confidence in their ability to cope and decreases their feelings of being useless during your breast cancer treatment.

Also, by not telling them, you risk that someone else might tell them and in so doing, might not have the sensitivity of telling them all they should know in a kind and loving way.

Age Is A Factor

Age is an important factor when deciding what to tell a child about a breast cancer diagnosis. Your child should be told the truth in such a way that they are able to understand and prepare themselves for the changes that will happen in the family.  All kids thrive on routine – it helps them to feel safe.  When life becomes unpredictable, they will need help adjusting to the changes.

All children need the following basic information:

  • The type of cancer that you have
  • The part of the body where the cancer is
  • The treatment you will receive
  • How their own lives will be affected

Telling Younger Children – Up to 8 Years

Young children won’t need a lot of detailed information but they do need to understand the family’s concerns and be told the above 4 things.  Younger children can also be told that the body is made up of lots of different parts and that when someone has cancer, it means that something has gone wrong with one of these parts and it has stopped doing what it’s supposed to do, that part of the body is no longer normal.

They are able to understand that a bunch of bad cells started to grow and that’s called a tumor and that the tumor (or the bad cells) should not be there.  Cancer can spread and grow into other parts of a person’s body, so the person needs treatment to either take out the tumor or stop the bad cells from spreading to other places.  Some children may not have any questions at first, but invite them to ask you later if they think of any.

Telling Older Children  & Teens

Older children (8-12 yrs) and teens will need to know more. Teens are busy testing their independence and pushing their limits, and they will have a very different set of concerns from a 5-year-old who needs parents for basic care giving.

Older children may be able to understand a more complex discussion of cancer – they may want to see pictures of cancer cells or read about cancer treatment.  Again, encourage them to ask questions and answer the best way you can.  If they ask something you can’t answer, promise to get them the information they request.  They will appreciate this.

11 Tips For Telling Your Child You Have Breast Cancer

  1. Set up a quiet time when you won’t be disturbed. If you have more than one child, you may want to talk to each child alone so that information can be tailored to each child’s age and understanding.  Be aware that each child will respond differently – by telling them separately, you can pay close attention to how each child responds.  Each child may also be more willing to ask questions when away from the other children and possible distractions.
  2. You may also want to include another family member to whom your child feels close, for extra support.
  3. Turn off your cell phone, put the pets outside, and don’t answer the door while you are having this talk.  If you stop to deal with distractions when your child is opening up to you, the child may find it more difficult  to try again.
  4. Plan ahead of time what you want to say and how to answer questions on a level that each child is able to understand.  It’s good if you can lay the groundwork for an open line of communication with the child, a way for the child to come to you with their concerns, needs, and fears. If you can start this and keep it going by regularly checking in with each child during and after your cancer treatments, it can be a great comfort to them and help them to feel you aren’t hiding anything.
  5. Make sure to stress that you will be getting good care and treatment and that new and better cancer treatments are being discovered every day.
  6. Help your children know what to expect during your breast cancer treatments so they will not be surprised about your lack of energy or change of appearance. You don’t have to tell them everything at once. You can give the information in small doses so that they will not be overwhelmed.
  7. Make sure your kids understand that cancer and chemotherapy treatments are not permanent conditions.  There will come a day when you will be done with your treatments and that you and your doctors will do everything possible to help you regain your health.
  8. Because children tend to feel that they are the center of the world, they might feel that something they did or didn’t do might have caused your cancer.  Studies show that most children believe this at some point during the cancer experience.  It’s a good idea to reassure them by saying something like, “The doctors have told us that no one can cause someone else to get cancer — it’s nothing that any of us made happen.”  It’s better not to wait to see if children bring this up because they could be feeling guilty without saying so.
  9. Make sure your kids know that cancer is not contagious and they cannot catch it.  They also need to know that not everyone dies from it.  It’s a good idea to correct these ideas before the child has a chance to worry.
  10. Let your children express their fears, confusion, anger or tears.  Comfort them and let them know that you care, and allow them to express their feelings so that they will be able to move through this journey with you.
  11. Try to keep a positive outlook but know that there will be days when you might not cope so well.  You could explain to your kids that you might have difficult days with pain from surgery or medication, and tell them those are the days when you will need them to be extra helpful.

Helpful Children’s Books

I also recommend two further resources:

Butterfly Kisses and Wishes on Wings” by Ellen McVicker and Nanci Hersh.  It uses clear, candid text, the illustrations are yummy, and it is a touching resource that can be used to educate and support children who are facing the cancer of a loved one. The book is available in both English and Spanish and you can purchase it by clicking on the link.  There is a lot of information on the website, I highly recommend you pay it a visit.

In Mommy’s Garden: A Book To Help Explain Cancer To Young Children” by Neyal J. Ammary and Christopher Risch.  Also available in both English and Spanish, the text in the book is simple and easy to understand, the characters in the illustrations were created with multicultural skin tones and without faces, so that children can easily identify with the characters regardless of their race and they can imagine their loved one’s face in place of the faceless character.  The story plot revolves around the narration of a little girl whose mother has cancer.  She talks about how her mom explained cancer to her by comparing weeds in a garden to cancer cells in the human body. The book also touches upon concerns of children including fear of it being contagious and the child’s emotions when the mother’s weakness from her medical treatments makes her unable to play with her daughter.  Click on the link to find out more or to order the book.

American Cancer Society
Parents Magazine

I send my love to everyone taking this journey right now. If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com) and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.

Making Decisions – Overcoming the “Paralysis of Analysis”

http://MarnieClark.com/Making-Decisions-Overcoming-the-Paralysis-of-AnalysisThe Paralysis of Analysis

When you are first diagnosed with any life-threatening disease, it is easy to be overwhelmed by all of the decisions you have to make.

Sometimes you might make the conscious decision NOT to make any more decisions until you have more information, or until you’ve talked to that friend who has been through it.  Sometimes you feel absolutely frozen in fear and can’t make any decisions at all, what the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King termed “the paralysis of analysis”.  Good turn of phrase!

Getting past that immobilization can sometimes be difficult.  I would encourage you to do just that, however, because there is nothing worse than paralysis in the face of a threat.  You must have a plan for dealing with the threat.  You will notice, in the coming weeks and months, that as you face the fact of your diagnosis you begin to observe that life goes on, even with this threat hanging over you.

I have some recommendations on getting through the decision making time.

4 Ways to Help You Move Beyond the Paralysis

  1. If a lack of information or understanding about the path you need to take is holding you back, talk to your doctor.  Talk to me.  Discuss it with that friend who has been through breast cancer.  Do some searches on the Internet, or have a friend do the searches for you.  Don’t let lack of information hold you back – we live in the age of technology when information is in abundance.
  2. If fear is holding you back, talk to a therapist.  Discussing your plight with a neutral party can often be extraordinarily helpful.
  3. If anxiety is keeping you from making the necessary decisions, and if you don’t know how to meditate, learn.  There is nothing more calming, more grounding, and more helpful than meditation to calm anxiety.  It will also help you with your treatments for the disease.  Meditation will help you focus on the problem at hand and help you make your decision for the right reasons and when you are calm and thoughtful.
  4. Seek solitude.  A long walk along the beach or a river often helps because the atmosphere surrounding places with water is full of negative ions, which help you feel better.  It can help to clear your mind and put things in perspective.

Psychology Today offers us this tasty little bit of advice: “You can practice confident decision-making by remembering a simple dictum over and over: You cannot have certainty and you don’t need it. By accepting that no certainty exists and that you don’t need it, you’ll instead harness intuition and, by extension, confidence.”

Decisions are an inevitable part of being human. It requires the right attitude.  Every problem, properly perceived, becomes an opportunity.

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Choosing the Right Oncologist for YOU


Choosing the Right Oncologist for YOU

When a person is newly diagnosed with breast cancer, the last thing on our minds is whether or not we will have the right oncologist – someone who cares about us and understands what we’re going through.

Yet it is probably one of the most important things about your journey through breast cancer because this person is part of your healing team.

What exactly is an oncologist?

Breaking the word down, “onc” means bulk, mass, or tumor, and the suffix ”-logy”, means “study of”.  A medical professional who studies cancer and practices oncology is an ”oncologist”.

I know so many women who have been complaining about their oncologist lately!  There are good ones and bad ones, just as with any profession.  As long as you are paying attention and observant, you’ll easily be able to pick whether you have one or the other.

Honestly, this is so important.  If you don’t feel like your oncologist is giving you what you need, you have every right to “fire” them and find another.  Remember – they work for YOU, not the other way around.

Here’s what to look for

*Are they honest and open, easy to speak with?  Do they look at you and meet your gaze?

*Do they answer your questions using technical jargon you don’t understand?  If so, you must tell them you don’t understand.  Do they then take the time to rephrase the terminology so that you do understand?

*Do they discuss your lab results with you and make sure you understand them?

*Do they present you with options for treatment and explain each one carefully until you understand?

*Do they keep their appointments with you? (keeping in mind that sometimes they will get delayed)

*Do they return your phone calls within 24 hours?

*Are their office staff pleasant to deal with and happy?

*Are they open to allowing you to do some things your way?

If you have to answer “no” to any of those questions, it might be time to find yourself another oncologist.  It’s your body and your life, you have the final say here. 

Having a good rapport with your oncologist is really important because they are part of your healing team.  You must be comfortable with them and know that they are doing their absolute best for you.  If you don’t feel that way, you have every right to find yourself another doctor!

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The Oncotype DX Test and Some Controversy


Image Source: freedigitalphotos.net / cooldesign
Image Source: freedigitalphotos.net / cooldesign

The Oncotype DX Test and Some Controversy

Most in the medical field would agree: early detection of breast cancer saves lives.  But how do doctors really know which treatments will be best to prevent the return of your cancer?

The Oncotype DX is a diagnostic test that helps your oncologist determine which treatment plan will most effectively prevent your cancer from returning (recurrence) or help to control your disease.

In order to be considered for this test, patients must have a diagnosis of estrogen-receptor positive (ER+), or estrogen-fueled breast cancer, be Stage 1 or Stage 2 and have no lymph nodes with cancerous cells, information that isn’t available until your lump has been biopsied.

When I went through breast cancer in 2004, I wasn’t offered the Oncotype DX test, perhaps because I was PR+, not ER+. Or perhaps it wasn’t available then, I haven’t had any luck finding out when the testing first became available.

What is the Oncotype DX?

The Oncotype DX test examines samples of tissue from your tumor and rates it for a specific set of genes that can influence the likelihood of recurrence within 10 years after your original diagnosis.  The result of the test is reported as a number between 0 and 100, known as the Recurrence Score® result.

The Recurrence Score

All of these test results make it easier for your oncologist to provide you with a diagnosis, but the genetic information (along with all of the other diagnostics) gives a clearer picture of whether or not your particular tumor will respond to chemotherapy to prevent any recurrence.

Your recurrence score will be based on the genetic expression of 21 genes, 16 of which are cancer-related, and 5 of which are reference genes. The genes are grouped by function: proliferation, invasion, hormone receptors (estrogen and progesterone), and growth factors. Each person’s test results will be unique, but will fall into one of three categories – low risk, intermediate risk, and high risk.

Those who have a low risk of recurrence may not need any chemotherapy and may be able to take hormone therapy as follow-up treatment after surgery. Those in the intermediate to high-risk categories may need chemotherapy as well as hormone therapy to further reduce a risk of recurrence. There are many other factors such as age, tumor grade, hormone receptor status, etc. that will be considered by your oncologist before a treatment plan will be put together, but research has shown that results from the Oncotype DX test are a very strong predictor for recurrence.

The Controversial Part

Medicare and several private health insurance companies will help cover the cost of an Oncotype DX test. Check with your insurance provider to find out if you are covered for this test. The current list price for the Oncotype DX is $4175.00 and it’s done by one company, Genomic Health.

This upsets me (and a whole host of others, let me tell you!).  There is no way that test should be so expensive.  It’s like holding us hostage – pay up or you aren’t going to know exactly which therapies you should be given. It’s absolutely disgusting.  I invite your comments below.





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The Best Chance to Heal Yourself – Own It


The Best Chance to Heal Yourself

I’m seeing a trend with breast cancer patients that worries me a bit.  To put it bluntly, I think that it’s misguided to put your entire healing process totally in the hands of your medical team.  That gives them all the power and none for yourself and that does NOT give you the best chance to heal yourself.

Your medical team, no matter how highly esteemed or how accomplished, function largely in the role of body mechanics.  They are trained in terms of body.  They can operate on you, they can prescribe a treatment strategy, but they are not responsible for your life or your health!

You are.

Nobody can get well for you.  You have to do it for yourself.

I think it’s wonderful to select a medical team in whom you have a great degree of confidence.  That’s important to do.

But once they are in place, your attention must also focus on the role of mind and spirit in this journey with cancer.

You are a totality of body, mind and soul – to ignore the other aspects and focus only on the body I believe is a mistake.

What Helped Me

I sought out a psychotherapist to help me with stress levels, I went to a person who taught me something called Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) to deal with my negative thoughts about cancer, my husband and I did some relationship counseling, we learned to meditate from a group of Buddhist monks — I did all this to give my body and my mind and my spirit a chance to heal.  These things might not work for you, but I would encourage you to find the things that DO work for you.

Honestly, I felt so good after taking care of all the emotional baggage – so much lighter and like I wanted to take on the world.  For me, that’s when true healing began to take place.

So empower yourself.  Do what you need to do to get beyond this – and be the beautiful spirit I know you can be.  You deserve it and the world needs your healing.  Now, more than ever.

If you’d like to stay connected, sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com) and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey.

14 Loving Ways to Support a Spouse with Cancer

couple hugging 214 Loving Ways to Support a Spouse With Cancer

Whether the diagnosis has come for a man or a woman, if your spouse has been diagnosed with cancer, you can feel like your whole world has turned upside down.

What you never expected or never even wanted to happen has just become a reality and it can be a big shock.  There are, however, many things that you can do to make the process easier for both of you.

  1. Move through that initial shock together.  Hold each other – hugs are so healing and both of you will be needing them. Cry if you need to.  The most important thing you can give your spouse right now is your love, to let them know that no matter what happens, you’ll get through it together.  If that initial stage of shock takes several weeks, try not to fight it.  Honor where you are and how you’re feeling.  It takes however long it takes.  But know that your spouse needs an emotional anchor, and you’re it, whether you like it or not.
  2. Be there and be strong. Your spouse needs you now more than ever.  Just realize that they might not be so much fun to be with all the time.  Please don’t give into the temptation to hide from the situation by getting busier with work, hobbies, or other things that keep you away from them.   You’re going to encounter some tough times – supporting someone who’s going through chemotherapy is not easy.  But they’ll remember what you did for them later.
  3. At work.  Look into your options for taking time off in case you need to care for your spouse. There may be different options depending on your place of employment as well as your state or local laws. Your human resources department should be able to point you in the right direction.  Tell your supervisor in advance that you may need to take a leave of absence.
  4. Be sure to look after yourself too.  Right at first you’ll be fine, but at some point, you’re probably going to feel like hell.  Go get a massage, hang out with a friend for an hour – do whatever you need to do to keep yourself strong.  Carergiver Syndrome is a very real thing and you don’t want it!
  5. Listen to your spouseThis may be the most important thing you can do for them right now. You know your spouse better than anyone else, and you trust each other.  Listen to their fears, worries and concerns with love.  Understand that neither of you may have the right words to talk about these things – you may have some awkward moments, and you may have to agree with each other that any words (even if they are not the “right” ones) are better than no words.
  6. Go with your spouse to appointments as often as you canBe an advocate.  Though your spouse may be a strong person, a person with cancer is often in no shape to battle hospital bureaucracies, thoughtless medical personnel, or anyone else.  Make it your job to take their side and ask questions until you get answers.  Even the best medical care personnel get too busy or distracted, so if/when that happens, you need to make sure your spouse gets the care they need.  Also two sets of listening ears are always better than one.
  7. Help organize medical appointments and paperwork.  Do your best to keep track of doctor’s appointments, prescriptions, hospital bills, test reports, and the hundreds of other pieces of paper that is engendered by cancer treatment.  Someone with “chemo brain” will definitely be relieved not to have to keep track of them.
  8. Communicate with family and friends.  They will want to know what’s happening, even though some of them may react strangely and not at all as you expected.  Don’t judge them, some people just can’t handle sickness.  Since this whole process can take awhile, consider setting up a blog, an email list, a Facebook page, or some other communication network to keep friends and family informed of your spouse’s progress without having to share news repeatedly with each individual.
  9. Know you are not alone – most will want to help. This isn’t always the case but if you let people know that you need some help, they are usually only too willing to jump in and help however they can.  Choose people you know you can trust. Try to give people something they can do even if it is something simple like bringing food to share when they come to visit or mowing the lawn or chopping up vegetables for the juicer.
  10. Be patient during chemotherapy.  Everyone knows that chemotherapy can cause nausea, but it can also cause food to taste strange – it may taste metallic or bitter.  Gently encourage your spouse to eat whatever he/she can.  Ask what tastes good and find a way to cook it or get it. Don’t be troubled if your spouse’s preferences change overnight and know that this won’t last forever!
  11. Keep yourself well. Wash your hands regularly and carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer for use when you’re out and about.  While your spouse is going through chemotherapy their immune system will be low and you’ll need to exercise extra care.  Avoid people who have an illness.
  12. Try to carry on as normal.  There is something comforting about routine, even in the midst of cancer.  Cancer doesn’t mean the world has to grind to a halt. If you and your spouse have normal routines and things you enjoy doing, try to keep them up as much as possible. But always be sensitive to fatigue, emotional stress, or other reasons for not doing things you normally do, and give into the needs of your spouse when you need to.
  13. Don’t leave. Regardless of the state of your relationship, this is the absolutely worst thing you can do to your spouse at this vulnerable time.  A person can get over cancer, but they will never get over the deep and lasting emotional injury you will inflict if you abandon them now.  And neither will you.  Don’t do it.  Stay, even if you’re not that happy with the situation.  Once your spouse is well again, then you can make that heavy decision.
  14. Reconnect with your spiritual beliefs.  Whether you believe in prayer or meditation, your spiritual beliefs are going to help you get through this.  You and your spouse will need a lot of resources to win this battle, more than you can get together on your own.  Don’t neglect your spirituality in this fight. It can connect you with the source of your greatest strength.

If you’d like to stay connected, sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com) and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey.

Why to Consider Fighting Breast Cancer with Vitamin D

oil capsules 3Fighting Breast Cancer with Vitamin D

Responding to research showing that vitamin D may slow the progression of breast, colon and other common cancers, some doctors have begun recommending their patients add vitamin D to their “tool kit” of cancer therapies alongside more conventional treatments such as surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin.  When the sun shines on the skin, the ultraviolet rays activate a form of cholesterol which is present in the skin, converting it to vitamin D1.  Because the body can provide sufficient vitamin D to meet its needs simply through exposure to sunlight, some feel it is not really a vitamin, but rather a hormone.

What must be taken into account, however, is the fact that the amount of vitamin D converted through sunlight exposure varies according to the time of year, latitude and longitude where you live, the color of your skin, and whether or not you wear a sunscreen whenever you go out.  So not everyone gets the same amount of vitamin D.

Recent studies have indicated that women in North America and northern European countries exhibit the highest incidence rate of breast cancer, whereas women in southern regions are relatively protected.

While not all doctors are convinced that the studies are strong enough evidence to warrant taking an extra dollop of vitamin D, those recommending it say popping the pills is a simple health strategy that has few, if any, risks and has the added benefit of also improving bone health in those with cancer.

Doctors Discuss the Data on Vitamin D

There is emerging data on breast cancer recurrence rates and vitamin D levels that are quite compelling,” says Tracey O’Connor, an oncologist at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo who treats breast cancer and is having her patients take the vitamin.

Dr O’Connor recommends high doses of the supplement to the most deficient patients immediately after they are diagnosed to quickly raise blood levels of the nutrient.

Dr. O’Connor says that having a low level of vitamin D “is quite common” among women with breast cancer, and most patients – about 80% – are either deficient or have insufficient amounts.

Dr. O’Connor says some breast-cancer patients have such low stores of the nutrient that they need to embark on a crash course of taking up to 50,000 iu a week for several months to bring up their levels. Other patients whose starting levels aren’t so poor take a few thousand iu per day. She also monitors blood levels to make sure people don’t get too much.

International units are the standard measurement of how much vitamin D is contained in supplements or foods. Multivitamins typically have either 400 or 800 iu, and a cup of fortified milk has 100 iu.

Longer Survival Times

In recent years, vitamin D has emerged as one of the most intriguing areas of cancer research. There have been numerous epidemiological studies finding that people with less vitamin D in their blood are at a higher risk of developing cancer compared with those who have higher levels.  18 different cancers have been identified for which this trend has been observed and includes colon and breast cancer.

Other research has found that people diagnosed with cancer in summer and fall – when blood levels of vitamin D are at seasonal highs because of sun exposure – have longer survival times than people whose cancers are detected in winter and spring.

I’m not advocating using ONLY vitamin D to fight breast cancer.  I truly believe, however, that it is beneficial to add to your arsenal of weapons against breast cancer.  If you’re newly diagnosed with breast cancer, generally wear sunscreen or don’t spend much time in the sun, and don’t drink milk, it might be a very good idea to go and get your vitamin D levels checked and start supplementing if your levels are low.  Watch this compelling video by Dr Joseph Mercola on vitamin D testing and supplementation.







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Love Yourself – It’s the Most Important Thing to Do

I don’t know if it’s just me or what, but it seems like a lot of the breast cancer patients I’ve spoken to lately are really struggling with a very simple concept, that of loving themselves.

Anthony Powell once said “Self-love seems so often unrequited.”  For many, a lack of self-love has left a hole inside their spirit and how can one heal with that going on?

I think that love is the most significant thing in human life.  Why is it so hard for us to love ourselves?

Often, I believe it goes back to those messages received from parents during very young, formative years.  We might have heard “I wasn’t planning to have another child when you came along”, or “Why can’t you be more like your sister?”  Such statements can be so damaging and can set our unconscious minds to thinking we are not worthy of love.

God’s Reset Button

For me, having cancer was simply a matter of  my inner healer saying “Pay attention!  You’ve been stressing about everything lately.  I’m going to make you hurt a little right now so you will wake up and get back on your path.”

Dr Bernie Siegel calls pain and suffering “God’s re-set button”.  I like that.  Going through a life-threatening disease like cancer is sometimes the only way we will make the necessary changes.

Getting Some Help

There are some self-love exercises that various mind-body medicine teachers suggest, for instance, stand in front of a mirror every morning and look yourself in the eyes and say “I love you” and mean it.  Sounds like a good place to start.

You can also join a support group focused on self-love and healing.

From what I’ve learned about the mind and body, though, we need to delve deeper to change those long-standing beliefs because our subconscious mind is controlling the show.  You can consciously decide to start loving yourself but if your subconscious mind believes you are not worthy of love or that you are useless, no amount of positive affirmations is going to change that deep seated belief.

One good therapeutic method is hypnosis,which is when a hypnotherapist induces a trance state in a patient whereby relaxation and heightened imagination or visualization can help bring about some real changes in beliefs.  There are some very helpful YouTube videos (I like Steve G Jones and a site called hypnosistoday.com).

Another method is neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) which is a method of retraining the brain – it’s difficult to describe it more fully than that.  If I had to choose between hypnosis and NLP, I believe I’d choose hypnosis, it has more research behind it and is generally employed by board certified psychiatrists.

Why Loving Yourself is Important

Vast quantities of research has been done on healing and why people don’t heal like they should and what researchers have found is that if people can be brought to love themselves, they heal not only psychologically but also physically.  Love comes from our deepest essence, when we feel love it becomes a whole body experience and true healing can take place.

According to www.hypnosistoday.com, “Self-love is the great healer. It purifies and fortifies your body, mind, and spirit. It makes you stronger and softer. Self-love is magnetic: when you love yourself, you draw other self-loving people into your life.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best: “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

If you’d like to stay connected, sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com) and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey.

Breast Cancer Diagnosis? Understanding Your Pathology Report

Photo courtesy of rgbstock.com and willhei
Photo courtesy of rgbstock.com and willhei

If you have a new breast cancer diagnosis, you will need help understanding your pathology report!

There will be all sorts of new terms to come to grips with and all kinds of things you will want to know in order to determine your course of action.

The Pathology Report

When you have a biopsy, the tissue removed from your breast is sent to a pathologist.

The pathologist is the physician who looks at the tissue under a microscope and determines whether or not the cells contain cancer.

He/she then prepares a report of the findings, including the diagnosis, and sends it to the ordering physician (either your surgeon or your oncologist).

Along with other test results or X-rays, the pathology report will help to guide your diagnosis, prognosis and treatment.

Ideally, an interdisciplinary team that includes your oncologist, radiologist, surgeon and pathologist will plan your treatment.  I also included a naturopath and Chinese medicine doctor and I found that this approach worked beautifully for me.

Always ASK FOR A COPY of your pathology report from your doctor for you to keep with your medical records.   It can be hard to take in all the findings at once and having a copy of the report you can refer to later is really helpful.

The Susan G Komen Foundation has a great checklist of questions to ask your doctor about your pathology report:  Questions to Ask Doctor About Biopsy .

Print it out and take it with you.

Helping You Understand the Pathology Report

Okay, now here’s the difficult part – you’ve got your report, your doctor has told you a bunch of things and now you have to make sense of it all.

Invasive what?  How big was it again?  Staging?  Grade?  The tumor had hormone receptors?  What does it all mean?

Fortunately, www.breastcancer.org has created a 23-page report which does a good job at explaining what all those terms mean for YOU.  How I wish I’d had this report when I was going through this!!!

Here it is: Your Guide to the Breast Cancer Pathology Report

They also offer some good advice:  “Don’t focus too much on any one piece of information by itself.  Try to look at the whole picture as you think about your options.”

The report explains all about types of breast cancer, grades, staging, margins, hormone receptors, and a good explanation of what HER2 means (page 11).  It’s absolutely awesome, I’m so glad someone put this together to help us make sense of this!

The only thing I would add to this is to say that your level of determination to beat this is just as important as anything the doctor recommends.

If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com).  It is my honor to help you through this.