What Dr. Luke has to say About Breast Cancer

Wang Mei Hua was 35 years old.  She had never even been sick enough to go to a hospital except to see patients who were sick and staying in the hospital. She felt fortunate about the good health she had all of her life.  One day while she was getting dress she was listening to a radio program which talked about breast cancer in women.  The radio broadcast said it was important for women to examine their breasts every month to make sure they did not have a painless breast mass which could signal early cancer. 

Wang Mei Hua decided to do this and the next day examined her breast.  To her surprise one of her breasts had a small painless lump.  She wondered if this could be cancer so she went to see a doctor at the local hospital.  The doctor found the lump as well and ordered a special X-ray called a mammogram.  This is a special X-ray only used for examining a breast for cancer.  The X-ray was suspicious for cancer.  The doctor with Wang Wei Hua and told her that it was important to get a piece of this lump in her breast and examine it under a microscope to see for sure if it was cancer or not.  The surgery to do take this small amount of tissue out is a very minor and simple surgical procedure with minimal risk involved.  The surgery was done the next week. 

Wang Mei Hua was shocked when she found out that the breast lump was positive for cancer.  However, she had some relief when the doctor told her that she was also fortunate that the cancer did not appear to have spread beyond her breast.  The doctor suggested that they do a larger operation to remove most of the breast so that the cancer would not spread further.  The doctor told Wang Mei Hua that if the breast was removed now there was a chance she could be cured.  She agreed with this.

The surgery to remove her breast was scheduled for the next week.  Everything went well. However, after the surgery when she was healing Wang Wei Hua was concerned about loosing her breast.  Would her husband or friends think less of her?  She wondered about this for sometime and did discuss this with some other patients she saw in the breast cancer clinic in the hospital. She also discussed this with some friends, though these friends had not had their breast removed.  She even discussed this with her husband.  He listened but she was not sure he really understood her feelings.

The doctor told her that she did not need to have more treatment at this point but they would need to repeat the mammogram in another 6 months to see if the cancer had returned in the same or opposite breast.

Wang Mei Hua's case is very similar to many women's with breast cancer.  First, most are surprised they have it and find it by accident.  Second, many can be younger women.  In fact breast cancer can start in women when they are in their late 20's and continue till as old as a woman can get.  In fact women over a 100 can get breast cancer. Thus you can never be too old to get breast cancer.  Third, it is important to go to a doctor with experience with breast cancer, like she did.  Making sure the cancer has not spread is very important when deciding the treatment.  Fourth, it is important to have the breast removed in order for a woman to have the best chances of having a cure or doing well.  Fifth, many women after their breast is removed have some depression and sense of loss because they have lost their breast and with it a sense of being a woman.  This loss often takes some women several years to go through.  There is plastic surgery to allow a woman's breast to be repaired but it might be quite expensive and you need to make sure the plastic surgeon who does the breast reconstruction has experience in this area of surgery or they could cause more problems than they solve.

This sense of loss is very important to women with breast cancer.  Many times they feel all alone with no one to really understand them.  This was the case with Wang Mei Hua.  Even her best female friends did not really understand her emotions and Wang Mei Hua did not think her husband understood her thoughts and emotions.  Many of us also experience this misunderstanding even if we do not have breast cancer.

The Bible speaks to this sense of loss. The Bible speaks though of a solution to this loss.  It speaks of Jesus Christ bearing our burdens for us.  The book of Matthew in the Bible written by a man named Matthew, who was a follower of Jesus tells it like this, 'Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light (Matthew 11.28-30).'

Certainly, this is a very comforting passage for anyone to read.  This passage tells of several benefits of coming to Jesus Christ; first, it tells us that Jesus is calling us to come to him, that is he wants us to come to him.  Second, he calls those who are weary and burdened.  He doesn't call just the wealthy and healthy or the powerful.  Third he promises he will give us rest.  Fourth, we can learn from him because he is gentle and humble in heart and he will not give us anything we cannot bear.  These are certainly great promises.  They should give comfort not only to Wang Mei Hua with her cancer but to anyone who is troubled, weary or burdened.

Before we talk more about how to come to Jesus and find rest let us go back to discussing a little more about breast cancer.  First, in China, breast cancer is not all too common.  However, it is growing in number and with the growing number of aging people the numbers of women with breast cancer will continue to grow.  Plus, there seems to be a correlation,  the more modern a country becomes the more breast cancer exists.  For example in the United States one in every 8 women get breast cancer before they die.

Second, can men get breast cancer?  Actually they can, though it is very rare.  But when men get breast cancer the prognosis is not very good.  Third, can breast cancer be prevented?  There appears now to possibly be some medicines to prevent breast cancer.  However, this evidence is very new and right now no women are being treated to prevent breast cancer on a routine basis.  Though this might soon change.  Fourth, what causes breast cancer?  Actually no one knows for sure.  Genetics for sure is a cause.  Women with breast cancer in their family, i.e. mothers or sisters are much more likely to get breast cancer than woman who have no breast cancer in their families.  However, the reverse is true as well.  That is women with no breast cancer in their families are also able to get breast cancer.  Other causes of breast cancer are smoking and eating a diet high in fat.

Wang Mei Hua met a lady in the clinic who was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 52 years old.  This lady was not as fortunate as Wang Mei Hua as her breast cancer had already spread to her liver when she was first diagnosed.  This is unfortunately a bad prognosis.  If the breast cancer has spread outside the breast at the time of diagnosis of breast cancer then few women live past five years.  Wang Mei Hua's doctor had told her about this information.  She had asked the doctor if there is a way to diagnosis breast cancer earlier in women.  He mentioned two different examinations to her.  First, is the breast examination, which was mentioned above.

How is this examination done?  It is actually very simple.  Every month any woman starting in her late 20's should examine their breast for 5 minutes or so.  They should be looking for painless lumps; painful lumps as a general rule are not cancers.   If a suspicious lump is found in the breast then you should go see a doctor.  The second examination is the mammogram, which is what Wang Mei Hua had.  This examine is done on most women in the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia if they are 40 of years of age or older, even if they have no symptoms of cancer.  Why is this?  It has been found that doing this test early can find very small breast cancers even before a woman can feel them with her hand.  Then early operation can be done and the woman healed.  This test is available in China but not done as much as in the United States due to the cost of the test.  Plus cancer is not as common in China as in the United States.

There are also some genetic blood tests which can be done but these are not used a lot in the world yet, but hold great promise for the future.  However, currently there is no blood test available, which detects breast cancer before you can even see the breast cancer on an X-ray.  Again, maybe there will be one in the future.

What types of treatments are available for breast cancer?  There are many and the options depend on how advanced the cancer is as well as how the patient is.  For example a woman who is much younger would prefer more aggressive treatment than a woman who is say 80 years old.  Most women up till they are in the seventh decade of life elect to have breast surgery that is to have their breast removed.  If a woman has breast cancer the only way to guarantee a cure is to remove the breast which has the cancer in it.  Also even if the breast cancer is has already spread the best way to get better results is also to remove the breast with surgery.

Some patients, especially those where the cancer has spread to other sites benefit from chemotherapy and radiation therapy.  These need to be decided on an individual basis after the diagnosis and surgery is done.  Woman who are very old, for example in there 80's and breast cancer can take a medicine to try and keep the breast cancer from spreading.  This medicine does not cure the patient, but allows them to have a life with minimal suffering without having to have surgery.

Breast cancer is hard because many young mothers get cancer and they die when their children are still young.  Though this not always the case.  As we discussed above Jesus Christ can provide comfort for us during times of difficulty such as when a woman has breast cancer.  However, you may ask, how can I come to know Jesus Christ so he can give me comfort in my time of need?  You can come to know Jesus Christ so that everyday you can have a full and meaningful life, not just on days when you are down.

We come to know Jesus Christ by believing in him.  We do this by admitting that we have done wrong in life or what the Bible calls sin.  This sin is wrongdoings like stealing, lying, cheating, thinking bad thoughts and so on.  Since God does not sin he cannot tolerate our sin and thus our sins have separated us from God.  Jesus Christ came to build the bridge between God and us.  He did this by dying on the cross for our sins.  He literally took the punishment of our sins on himself so we would not have to bear them.  The Bible says it like this, 'But God showed his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Jesus Christ died for us (Romans 5.8).'  This is a great love.  He died for us even while we were still disobeying God.

We can come to know God through Jesus Christ by believing that Jesus Christ died for me and later rose from the dead.  Again, the Bible says it like this; 'If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you will be saved (Romans 10.9,10).'  If we believe that he is Lord our lives and believe that he died on the Cross for us and then believe that God raised him from the dead we will be saved both know and into all eternity.  This certainly provides security for all of us in our lives and should anyone with breast cancer hope both now and for the future.