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MU research shows breast cancer patients still need post-treatment support

Friday, October 29, 2010 | 12:51 p.m. CDT; updated 2:10 p.m. CDT, Friday, October 29, 2010

COLUMBIA — Lori Taube was diagnosed with breast cancer on July 22, 2009.

Her immediate response was not "Why me?" It was "Why not me?"

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Warning signs of breast cancer:

  • Lump, hard knot or thickening
  • Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening
  • Dimpling or puckering of the skin
  • Itch, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
  • Pulling in of your nipple or other parts of the breast
  • Nipple discharge that starts suddenly
  • New pain in one spot that doesn't go away

Source: Mid-Missouri Breast Cancer Awareness Group

 



Of course, it caught her off guard, but a key strategy throughout the ordeal was to accept reality and find support to help her through treatment.

She joined the Mid-Missouri Breast Cancer Awareness Group in early 2010. Nearly a  year after chemotherapy ended, she is still active in the organization.

A recent study of breast cancer patients by MU researchers confirms that long-term support pays off with a higher quality of life.

Stephanie Reid-Arndt, assistant professor of health psychology in the MU School of Health Professions and one of the researchers, also found that patients living in urban areas reported a higher quality of life than survivors in rural areas.

One reason is that urban residents have more access to consistent, professional help, which boosts the quality of life.

"Rural areas have a lot of social interaction and community support, but they have less access to services, such as a mental health facilities," she said.

The study asked 46 breast cancer patients living in rural areas to use a five-point scale ranking their quality of life after treatment. The 44-item assessment measured, for example, physical, social, family and emotional well-being; type of symptoms; and relationships with doctors. 

Even with strong social networks in rural communities, support often begins to diminish after the cancer patient has finished treatment, Reid-Arndt said. However the ordeal is not over for the cancer survivor.

The Mid-Missouri Breast Cancer Awareness Group provides an outlet for survivors to interact with one another long after they have finished treatment and offers a place for newly diagnosed patients to speak with other women who have been through the same experience.

"It's nice to be able to talk with other people have gone through the same thing ... chat about your symptoms," Taube said. "It's nice to know that it's not just you."

Taube's family and close friends also helped pull her through treatment. Her husband saved his vacation time for her mastectomy, and her mother took her to medical appointments.

Co-workers at the Rusk Rehabilitation Center donated money to assist her family and offered to help with chores around the house.

"I had a great support group through my family, and my co-workers were just amazing," Taube said.

Kathy Windmoeller, a founder of the Mid-Missouri Breast Cancer Awareness Group, is a cancer survivor who decided in 2000 to provide a lifeline to patients during treatment and beyond.

One woman in the group went through treatment 15 years ago, and others traveled from Boonville until they started their own group.

"You're never really done with breast cancer," Windmoeller said. "It never goes away."

Finishing treatment can lead to a period of panic and fear of being alone, she said. It's not easy to return to normal life.

"Breast cancer support groups offer the chance to talk with women who have been through treatment, survived and are doing well and enjoying life again," Windmoeller said.


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