My Oncologist's Take On Breast Cancer


[NOTE: The information below came from my oncologist. I simply transcribed and summarized our latest conversation during my consultation.]

June 27, 2018 marks my one year of being on remission, which means that all signs of the cancer are gone. The five year period since the diagnosis is a critical stage as there's a higher chance of recurrence at this time. If after five years it doesn't come back, I have a bigger probability of being declared cured. So now, we wait. One year down, four more to go. Meanwhile, there'll be regular tests, scans and visits with my oncologist along the way to make sure I continue being in tip-top shape.

Whenever I visit my onco, Dr. Richard Schwab in the UCSD Breast Health Center, I bombard him with questions and inquiries about preventative measures, research advancements, and latest discoveries in terms of treatment if there are any. I have been so repetitive in each appointment because I wanna make sure I am well-informed and updated with breast health developments.

Here's my exchange of Q & As with him. I'm hoping it will shed some clarity to my followers out there who are diagnosed as well.

ME: Why did I have breast cancer?

DR. SCHWAB: There are a few possible factors but we can't point out for sure. Your BRCA testing, which shows if you are a cancer gene carrier turned out negative so you didn't inherit breast cancer from your aunts on your dad's side who had it. You were active, eating and living healthy and in good weight before diagnosis so it's not about your poor health either. The only factor I'm guessing is that you didn't bear a child in your younger years. Women who delayed child birth or didn't bear at all has slightly higher risk of getting cancer on the reproductive organs than those who got pregnant when they were young. That and probably just a stroke of bad luck as getting a diagnosis is really very random and can happen to any woman. I have all types of breast cancer patients... mothers, non-mothers, young, old, smoker, non-smoker, healthy, overweight, vegans, meat-eaters... you can name it all! Research is still on progress on how to determine the cause but for now, unless they turned out positive on the BRCA testing, we can only make wild guesses.

ME: If I become vegan/vegetarian, will I still get breast cancer?

DR. SCHWAB: Yes you can. As mentioned earlier, I have patients that are vegans or vegetarians for many, many years before they got diagnosed. There are no proven legit claims yet that being vegan/vegetarian prevents you from getting cancer. Eating healthy will always be encouraged because it does play a big role in maintaining good health overall. But it doesn't abstain one from getting cancer. Again, it's random play. Even the healthiest person can get it out of bad luck.

ME: Can I still consume red meat, alcohol and dairy?

DR. SCHWAB: Yes you may as long as it's done in moderation for your general health's sake. The healthier you are, the more points you add to your life's longevity. But again, I have vegan, vegetarian, non-alcohol, non-dairy consuming patients and yet they still had breast cancer. So there really is no guarantee at this point.

ME: Does radiation from mobile phones and microwave cause breast cancer?

DR. SCHWAB: There are no legit evidences and studies that can prove that as of now so no. As long as your chest is not in the microwave, then you’re okay.

ME: Does my chemo brain and fatigue that still lingers on after chemo ever go away?

DR. SCHWAB: It's a case-to-case basis. But it takes time to bring everything back to normal. Chemo brain and fatigue generally goes away in 2 to 5 years, depending on how your system copes up. But it will go away. You just have to be patient with yourself.

ME: How do I lessen my chances of recurrence?

DR. SCHWAB: Being overweight has been scientifically proven to have higher risk of recurrence. So make sure to maintain a healthy weight in this lifetime. And just to be in good condition in general and to avoid other diseases from popping out, eat healthy, stay active, reduce stress and have a happy disposition in life. Again, there really is no guarantee in medicine. We can just do the best we can to keep the cancer under control by being proactively healthy.

ME: What other advances are there right now in terms of breast cancer treatment?

DR. SCHWAB: Aspirin is being studied right now to see if it can prevent recurrence. Ibrance, which is the treatment for metastatic breast cancer, is also being tested in clinical trials for the same purpose. Talazoparib and Irinotecan, the clinical trial chemo that you did, has been shown to work better for BRCA positive patients. It's a better alternative for Taxol, definitely milder and tolerable. Hopefully in a few more years, we'll have more advancements.

ME: Does holistic medicine prevent or cure cancer?

DR. SCHWAB: Holistic approach is a great way to be healthy, in general. And it can definitely compliment conventional treatment in terms of helping ease the side effects. But again, there are no proven and legit claims yet that it can refrain you from getting breast cancer, curing it or preventing recurrence. It's great for staying healthy but again, I’ll keep stressing that it hasn't been clinically proven yet.

ME: Am I cured?

DR. SCHWAB: Based on your tests, scans and the outcome of your treatment, you are most likely cured since we caught your breast cancer early. We will have to wait for your 5 year mark of being on remission before I can feel more confident to say that you are cured. But as of right here, right now, you are most likely good already.

ME: What advice do you have for women diagnosed with breast cancer?

DR. SCHWAB: 1 out of 8 women will get breast cancer in this lifetime regardless of race, age, lifestyle, eating habits, life disposition, with kids or none. It can just happen. So don't blame yourself if you get it as it can just really be a case of bad luck. Treatments have been improving as times go by and there will be more advancements in the coming years. For now, live life the best way you can and hope for the best.

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