Breast Cancer: A Survival Guide For Husbands

Breast cancer is a life and relationship threatening trauma. Peter J. Flierl, M.S.W., offers insights and common sense for husbands of patients with breast cancer

When we marry the man or woman of our dreams, our soul mate and best friend, we expect to be together for a lifetime despite the odds against it with 6 of 10 marriages today ending in divorce. We truly believe that we will be together “for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, ’til death us do part.” And then life intrudes: becoming a couple, learning to balance needs, the joy and awesome responsibility of becoming and being parents, managing careers and handling money.

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If a marriage is sound, it can weather any storm, survive virtually any trauma. If the relationship is not on solid ground, a trauma, almost any trauma or stress, can lead to its demise. That may account for the fact that nearly seven in ten marriages touched by breast cancer do not survive.

There is no magic bullet, no panacea or formula, for surviving and indeed thriving despite of or in part due to facing breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, and subsequent life together.

God it is said gives us challenges to build character, so you as a husband and the two of you as a couple have a great opportunity to build character, to create a lifetime love story. My bride of 28 years, Shirley, is a 22-year survivor of breast cancer. However, that does not define her. She is also a mother, a businesswoman, an educator, a lover, a community volunteer, and my lifetime partner.

She was treated at age 37 for an aggressive, Stage 3 tumor that had extensive lymph node involvement. She is alive and well, still sexy with just one breast, and is an inspiration to other women facing this disease, particularly young women.

Following are suggestions to other husbands on how to be there for your wife, how to help her become and remain a survivor.

1. Tell her you love her.

In a marriage or any intimate relationship, silence is not golden. The strong silent type need not apply for the position of husband, lover, best friend, confidante and supporter of a woman with breast cancer. Your bride, your wife, needs and wants to hear from you. Actions may speak louder than words, and you may take all the right actions, but speaking words brings comfort, reassurance and knowledge of your inner feelings.

She cannot read your mind. Being there for her is more than physical or economic security. Words have meaning. And the three most important words in the English language at this time, at this moment, when together you are facing her mortality, are: “I love you.”

The late Louise Crisafi, a saint here on Earth who always gave of herself for others in need, taught me this lesson on the Friday my wife, Shirley Ann, had her biopsy and was diagnosed. Shirley had opted for a two-step process for diagnosis one day and treatment, i.e., surgical removal of her right breast, a mastectomy, on a second day.

This meant we knew on Friday she would have a mastectomy on Monday, a weekend together, scared, anxious, frightened. Shirley was confronting her death and the imminent loss of a part of her womanhood. I was clueless, at a loss, overwhelmed and scared. I didn’t know what to do, how to act or what to say.

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Important Facts About Breast Plastic Surgery And Breast Implants

Breast augmentation is the most commonly performed cosmetic surgical procedure in the United States and therefore the most commonly performed breast plastic surgery. Today it’s important to be fully informed about all the risks and complications that you might encounter with breast plastic surgery. Of all the breast plastic surgery procedures performed in 2006 in the United States, 329,000 were for breast augmentations.

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The first woman implanted with silicone implants was in 1962. There are two primary types of breast implants: saline-filled and silicone-gel-filled implants. It was predominantly silicone implants that were designed in the 1970s that were involved in the class-action lawsuits against Dow-Corning and many other manufacturers in the early 1990s.

There have been several types of breast implants developed other than the two most common, saline filled and silicone gel filled, including polypropylene string and soy oil, but these are not commonly used, if at all; leakage of oil into the body during a rupture would not be good. Dr. Thomas Cronin and Dr.

Frank Gerow, two Houston, Texas, plastic surgeons, developed the first silicone breast prosthesis with the Dow Corning Corporation in back in 1961. For women with very little breast tissue, or for post-mastectomy reconstruction, plastic surgeons believe that silicone gel implants are the superior device; but in patients with more breast tissue, saline implants can look very similar to silicone gel implants.

Saline implant shells are made of silicone elastomer and the implants are filled with saline solution after the implant is placed in the body. One manufacturer did produce a model of pre-filled saline implants but has been reported to have had high failure rates following surgery.

When breast implants are removed that have been implanted for a long period of time, a mastopexy is often performed to tighten up the loose skin: this is additional surgery usually done at the same time and at an additional expense. It’s important to remember that breast implants don’t last a lifetime and at some time or other would need to be removed or removed permanently and replaced.

Extracapsular silicone has the potential to migrate to other parts of the body, but most clinical complications have appeared to be limited to the breast and axillae as inflammatory nodules (granulomas) and enlarged lymph glands in the armpit area called axillary lymphadenopathy.

Studies of saline-filled breast implants approved by the FDA in May 2000 showed rupture and deflation rates of 3-5% at three years and 7-10% at five years for breast augmentation patients. One study reported that only 30% of ruptures in asymptomatic patients are accurately detected by experienced plastic surgeons, compared to 86% detected by MRI. Some studies have suggested that subjective and objective symptoms of women with breast implants may improve partially or entirely when their implants are removed.

Related Links:
Prothèse Mammaire
Breast Prosthesis Gives Shape
Medicare Breast Prosthesis Coverage