When the surgeon called to share the pathology results I was not taking notes. I also forgot to ask a few questions like staging. Monday was my post-op follow-up with the breast surgeon so I had the opportunity to talk with her and ask my questions.
Overall, she said I’m going good. I was “reprimanded” for using my arms too much. Ok, not so much reprimanded, but gently reminded to take it easy. That should reduce the swelling. She said the skin looks good and there is no sign of infection. The odd dimple in my left armpit should resolve itself and the pain I’ve been having is normal.
We did get the opportunity to talk about staging. There are multiple factors that go into determining a cancer stage. It involves how big the primary tumor is, how many lymph nodes are affected and if the cancer has spread to anywhere else in the body. My cancer is classified as T2 N1 M0. So the tumor was bigger than 2cm, but less than or equal to 5cm (it was exactly 5cm). There was 1 lymph node with cancer and the cancer had not spread to anywhere else in the body. Therefore I am classified as stage 2B. Had that tumor been a millimeter larger I would have ended up stage 3. Thank God for small miracle.
When I was first diagnosed one of the first things Derek said was that we would be seeking all of my treatment at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. There was no question. We are in proximity to one of the best cancer centers in the country. Why not?
To put it simply, patients who receive all of their care at SCCA live longer. Here’s a snapshot.
This little graph is direct from the SCCA breast cancer website. It shows that the average 5 year survival rate of stage 2 breast cancer patients receiving their care at a facility other than SCCA is 85%. Patients who receive all of their care at SCCA have a 5 year survival rate of 92%. I’ll take those odds.
The other reason I had my fingers crossed for the 2B was that the survival rate dramatically drops once you cross into that stage 3 threshold. At stage 2 I have a 92% 5 year survival rate. At stage 3 I have an 82% survival rate. One millimeter is 10%.
When we started this process Derek asked my oncologist wat was my prognosis. Her response was that she doesn’t like to work in prognostic numbers. She said the only acceptable outcome was cure. I like her.