ABC6: Cancer patients often left with mental struggle even after treatment
Even after a breast cancer patient has been declared cancer-free – a survivor – by their physician, the battle isn’t over. In some cases, there is more to recovery than surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Many patients still have to deal with side effects of an anti-estrogen treatment (including hot flashes), stress over the possibility of a reoccurrence and depression.
“About 13%, on average, will actually stop their therapy because the side effects are so bad,” said Mark Cripe, DO, a breast and melanoma surgeon with OhioHealth Breast and Cancer Surgeons, during a recent interview with ABC6.
Tara Ernske was diagnosed with breast cancer at just 30 years old and is now cancer-free. She is currently on an anti-estrogen hormonal therapy treatment to hopefully prevent a reoccurrence. In addition to hot flashes as a side effect from the treatment, she has to deal with mood swings and occasional depression, as well as the fear of her cancer returning.
“Every time I get a headache or a bone is sore, I wonder if the cancer has returned and spread,” she says.
Dr. Cripe recommends that patients talk about their symptoms, including non-physical ones like depression, with their physician. From there, he says they can see about changing the medications or referring the patient to a psychiatrist or psychologist to aid in the process.
Tara says also noticed support has lessened from when she was in the midst of the disease.
“After the treatment, there’s really not as much (support) anymore,” she told ABC6. “I mean, people just don’t talk about it as much anymore.
Tara reminds people that simply checking in with someone who has recently battled cancer can go a long way. “Ask them how they’re doing every once in a while,” she says.