Self-Advocacy Is Critical in Cancer Care

CURE, CURE® Breast Cancer 2022 Special Issue,

It is essential that patients with breast cancer speak up to their health care providers, be it advocating for genetic testing or discussing symptoms.

Advocating for oneself is a critical component throughout the cancer journey.

Treating cancer while keeping the patient in mind is a fine balance that all cancer teams must strive for. But what if the tables are turned — and it’s the researchers who need to advocate for something they feel strongly about?

For example, what if a specific measurement has the capacity to predict the response to cancer treatment for a patient, but the time-consuming process of deciphering its results has created “tension between accuracy and efficiency for reading this test”?

In this special issue of CURE®, we see a prime example of this in an article on scoring Ki-67, a protein that’s expressed when tumor cells divide. Researchers have found that measuring a patient’s Ki-67 score — with a higher score indicating aggressive tumor growth — can help cancer teams decide which treatment may be best for a patient with breast cancer.

Renewed focus on Ki-67 scoring stems from a recent Food and Drug Administration approval of a drug that showed benefit in patients with higher Ki-67 scores.

In the article, we speak with a patient who said her Ki-67 score changed the trajectory of her care plan and created a sense of urgency around treatment. She said that if this test hadn’t been performed, the tumor could have continued to grow and potentially spread. This situation also taught her the importance of self-advocacy because she demanded the biopsy that determined her Ki-67 score.

Another article in this issue examines how patients can navigate a secondary cancer diagnosis months or years after completing treatment for primary breast cancer. We learn how radiation, a treatment with many benefits, may be the cause of some secondary cancers.

Although the risk of a secondary cancer is low, it’s important for patients to be diligent no matter where they are in their cancer journey.

Also in this issue, a clinical psychologist pens her advice for patients who experience chest numbness after undergoing a mastectomy. She highlights advancements that potentially alleviate numbness and the value in patients discussing this common side effect with loved ones and their cancer team.

“There are physical and emotional ways to move forward after a mastectomy, but they are only possible by bringing the sadness, embarrassment and pain of sensation loss into the light,” she wrote.

Additional topics include recent study results on metastatic breast cancer and the fear of recurrence.

As always, we hope you find our stories inspirational and informative. Thank you for reading.

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