Saw oncologist Dr M this morning and he reiterated the good news that breast cancer surgeon Mr Tit-man had given me last week - that I am cancer free. He was slightly more reticent though, because I did not do the usual course, ie I did not have the full lymph node dissection. However, he did say that since my tumour had reacted very well to the chemotherapy, the lymph nodes should have done the same; and besides, they are a much smaller mass. Also, five lymph nodes were initially taken out; and only one was infected. The chances of having an infected one far away from the initial sentinel dissection are very rare: he compared it to finding teeth on a hen. So big phew then...
We then discussed the drug that I am to take daily for the next five years - a drug called Tamoxifen. Since my breast cancer was hormone positive, this drug basically blocks the growth of oestrogen in my body. Side-effects are an increased chance of ovarian cancer and blood clots - these are very rare though - again, the hen's teeth analogy. Other side effects are menopause symptoms, such as hot flushes and the like. Tamoxifen's success in preventing breast cancer recurrence though outweighs the possible risks and side-effects, so I will start taking the medication in two weeks' time.
Radiotherapy came next: we talked about whether or not I should have radiotherapy done to the lymph node area. Mr T had told me that he felt that it was not necessary because of the reasons mentioned above, and doing so would only negate what I had avoided by not having the full dissection: the risk of lymphedema. Apparently, radiotherapy can cause this as much as a full dissection. Dr M went through all my paperwork and he agreed with Mr T - so radiotherapy will only be focused on the breast area. I need to have eighteen sessions, everyday for a month - except weekends. Luckily, girlfriend and neighbour S who was diagnosed a month or so after me (what's wrong with the water where we live then?) will be doing the radiotheraphy with me. This should keep boredom at bay and we can also share the driving. Sadly, the radiotherapy will not be done at our local hospital. What a pain. Luckily, it's not too far from a shopping mall. What a relief.
Dr M checked my breast after surgery and he seems to be very happy with the results. Very neat apparently, and smoother than most (which is a good thing). Why the heck does he always have cold hands though???
So again, onwards and upwards!