Breast Cancer Awareness


Breast-cancerAs a woman I am acutely aware that October is the month designated as Breast Cancer awareness month.  I am reminded every year to get my mammogram in that month.

Recently as I was getting out of my car in my driveway a little lady pulled in and got out to introduce herself.  I live in a rural country area where people are friendly and curious about their neighbors.  She was an elderly frail woman and had no hair,  As a nurse that signaled she most likely has been treated for cancer.

As we talked she shared she had been treated 9 years ago for breast cancer.  She had been cancer free until about 6 months ago. Now she is again found to have metastatic cancer and was undergoing treatment .  This talk was a stark reminder that cancer has no boundaries.  Men, women, young and old, are potential victims of breast cancer.

As a traveler who may care for breast cancer patients you should be aware of present and future trends. Get to know new treatment modalities and the essentials of care for breast cancer patients and their families. You may find a higher trend of breast cancer in some areas of the country.  Sonoma County California was known to have a higher number of breast cancer patients than in other parts of the state.  The reason for the higher trend was under investigation.

Breast Cancer Statistics

According to the American Cancer society statistics:

•    1 in 8 American women will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime
•    More than 40,000 U.S. women will die from breast cancer this year
•    Approximately 2,000 U.S. men will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year
•    There are about 2.8 million breast cancer survivors currently living in the U.S.

Breast Cancer Treatment

We all know about treating with surgery, radiation and chemotherapy but there are some new and promising treatments out there.  According to researchers at the National Institutes of Health, new treatments have had positive results, based on clinical trials and early treatment roll outs.  Some of the newest treatments showing promise include:

Targeted therapy

Targeted cancer therapies are treatments that target specific characteristics of cancer cells, such as a protein that allows the cancer cells to grow in a rapid or abnormal way. These therapies are generally less likely than chemotherapy to harm normal, healthy cells.

 Hormone therapy

The link between hormones and breast cancer and how different groups of drugs — including ERDs, SERMs, and aromatase inhibitors — can affect that link.

Hormonal therapy medicines treat hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers in two ways:

  1. by lowering the amount of the hormone estrogen in the body
  2. by blocking the action of estrogen on breast cancer cells


Breast cancer has historically been considered immunologically silent.  There is now preclinical and clinical studies which suggest immunotherapy has the potential to improve clinical outcomes for breast cancer patients.  The treatment is a type of biological therapy that helps the body fight cancer through living organisms within the body.  Such organisms are T Cells, a subtype of white blood cells located within the immune system.

Gene therapy

Gene therapy for advanced breast cancer is anticipated to be a useful therapeutic approach. This is a process that introduces copies of normal functioning genes to alter cell mutations involved in the formation of cancer cells.

Caring for Breast Cancer Patients

As a travele nurse, you may care for breast cancer patients. Here are some key points to help you provide the most appropriate and compassionate care:

Acknowledge the individual

Remember that breast cancer patients are individuals  with unique needs. They will have questions about their diagnosis and treatments.  Answer honestly and refer them to the appropriate healthcare professional if you don’t have the answer.  Honesty and compassion help to reduce anxiety.

Navigating the system

Nurses can act as patient navigators for breast cancer patients, helping them deal with physician referrals, appointments, tests, and treatments. The goal is navigators to monitor and assist patients as they move from diagnosis to breast cancer survivor. As a travel nurse, you help provide individualized, honest and compassionate care throughout the patient care referral system. Treat each patient as if they are a family member.

Listen and teach 

Patients only hear about 10 percent of what is being said by their physician and medical team.  While teaching be patient and present information at a level they can comprehend.  Limit the use of medical terminology and give patients as much time as they need to process information. You learned in nursing school, speak to them at a level they can understand.

Find a support group

Support groups are able to give patients opportunities for encouragement by others with similar diagnoses. Cancer treatment centers and hospitals generally have contacts and resources you can access on behalf of your patients.

Help them with educational materials

Breast cancer patients today have access to a  wealth of educational materials to help with their diagnosis and treatment possibilities. The internet has a wealth of current information at your fingertips. Travel nurses can connect patients with in-house resources at their assignment facilities, as well as community resources and educational materials from The American Cancer Society and other groups like the Susan G. Komen Foundation.




Cheryl Roby, RN

Cheryl J. Roby is a retired RN and US Army Nurse Major. She has over 30 years of nursing experience and 26 years of military experience in the Army Nurse Corp. During her nursing career she has traveled as part of her military experience visiting many of the 50 states and once to South Korea. Her medical training began during the Vietnam era when trained as an army medic. She went on to train as an OR tech and then as a LVN/LPN. She completed nursing school and was direct commissioned into the reserve Army Nurse Corp. nurse. She appreciated the challenge of working in various specialties and expanding her clinical and professional skill sets. Her time in the Army Reserves and California National Guard gave her the opportunity to travel to most of the 50 states and working in other medical facilities. During her career she spent years as an OR nurse, Occupational Health Nurse, Hospice Nurse, Forensic Nurse, Nurse Case Manager for developmental disabilities, Parish Nursing as well as being a Nurse Entrepreneur.

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