There are many factors to consider when determining how long breast cancer takes to treat. Even your doctor will only be able to give estimates based on how far your cancer has spread through the breast tissue and where it has metastasized if it has metastasized at all.
Their estimates are based on decades of experience and medical research. However, you should still ask your doctor to give you two estimates, one that imagines everything going to plan and one that factors in common complications. Taking all factors into consideration, the Mayo Clinic suggests that the average treatment length for breast cancer can be divided into two categories: early-stage breast cancer and advanced breast cancer. When trying to figure out how long breast cancer takes to treat, it’s important to start here.
If you’re lucky and catch your condition early on, then your breast cancer treatment will generally last between three and six months. This assumes there is no further growth while you are undergoing treatment. In more advanced cases, you should typically expect a minimum of six months of treatment. How far it goes beyond that depends on how many surgeries you need and how far the cancer has spread.
Survival Happens Every Day
These rough estimates for how long breast cancer takes to treat can be helpful to plan your life around treatment. More importantly, they provide a light at the end of the tunnel for you to focus on. However, for your daily sanity, it may be better to break down your treatment into smaller parts. Take it from one day to the next. Remember, every day you make it, you’re already winning. These factors all affect how long breast cancer takes to treat.
In some cases, where the tumor is still relatively small, your doctor may choose to administer a cycle of chemotherapy prior to surgery. This attempts to shrink the tumor. There are a number of reasons your doctor may suggest this practice. The Mayo Clinic states that it is sometimes used to establish how the tumor reacts to treatment in order to establish a clearer prognosis. In other cases, the pre-surgery chemotherapy may increase the odds of the tumor’s complete removal. All with minimal damage to the surrounding tissues and lymphatic system. However, this is limited to the earliest stages of breast cancer.
For mid-level to advanced cases, surgery almost always precedes other forms of treatment. Science-Based Medicine warns patients that this step may not always happen as quickly as they would expect, but that a delay of a few weeks makes no marked difference in their survival statistics. This time is ideal for your surgeon to schedule your surgery and for you to prepare for the coming challenge. BreastCancer.org warns patients to not panic or rush their initial surgery. It is perfectly fine to take that vacation you booked months ago or visit your family over the holidays unless your doctor says otherwise. They will tell you if surgery can’t wait.
Dr. Marlene Miltenburg of Breast Health Institute Houston estimates that recovery from surgery typically takes two weeks. As a result, the average patient takes between six and eight weeks to make the transition from diagnosis to post-surgical recovery if they are able to schedule surgery within the first month.
Although some early cases can be treated with radiation therapy, many breast cancer patients have to go through chemotherapy. Medical News Today’s professionally-reviewed article explains that your doctor’s approach to chemotherapy will vary based on your condition. Typically, they will sketch out a plan based on your prognosis. Keep in mind they will monitor progress with every course of chemotherapy you undergo.
A course of chemotherapy can range from one dose to several given over a set period of time. The dosage and frequency will vary based on the individual. Once you’ve completed a course, blood tests will ascertain your body’s response. Chemotherapy is far from pleasant, but each course is a definitive marker you can use to track your progress as you go.
Keeping Cancer in its Place
It’s frustrating when you don’t know exactly how long this nightmare will last, but every step you take has the opportunity to give you hope if you’re willing to treat it as progress. Whether your battle with cancer lasts for three months, six months, or a year, the most important thing is to create a support network you can rely on. Explain to family and friends what you really need from them rather than letting their fear control your life and find a doctor you can really trust.