نشر يوم 20. September 2018

Life is not over

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women, but it is not the most dangerous. If detected and treated in time, most diseases are curable. The Vivantes Breast Center is one of the largest certified breast centers in Germany. It follows the guiding principle of humane, competent and holistic care.

Doctors currently diagnose a woman in Germany with breast cancer over 70,000 times a year. For those affected, this is initially a shock. Their whole life seems to be called into question, fear spreads, and emotions ride a roller coaster. It is then important to have a competent point of contact and a contact person who listens, supports and initiates the necessary first steps for effective treatment. The Vivantes Breast Center at Vivantes Hospital „Am Urban“ supports patients and their families with many years of experience, competence and attention. The two chief physicians Dr. Claudia Gerber-Schäfer and Dr. Marion Paul lead a specialized team of medical specialists, nursing staff, onco- and psycho-oncologists, radiation, psycho- and physiotherapists, pathologists, an art therapist and a study nurse (co-supervisor of clinical studies). They all provide high-quality care to women with the disease based on their individual patient histories and current guidelines. Much emphasis is placed on close collaboration with physicians in private practice, self-help groups and other cooperation partners. The patient and her well-being are always the focus of all measures. Patients are provided with comprehensive information and education about their illness and all therapeutic steps, a prerequisite for actively participating in the recovery process.

Highly qualified modern medicine

Breast cancer therapy is based on three pillars: Surgery, radiation and treatment with drugs, for example chemotherapy, hormone therapy and, more recently, antibody therapy. Surgery is the central pillar of therapy and usually the first therapeutic step after diagnosis. If the breast is preserved, as is mostly possible today, radiotherapy usually follows. It is often supplemented by drug therapy, either short-term as chemotherapy or, possibly additionally, as long-term therapy with anti-hormones. However, there has been some change in the standard sequence of therapeutic measures. More and more frequently, treatment starts with chemotherapy. For example, in order to reduce a large tumor to such an extent that it can be operated on in a breast-conserving manner. In some cases, radiation therapy is also started. At least once a week, the interdisciplinary tumor board meets at the Vivantes Breast Center, a panel of experts who discuss each individual case in detail and jointly decide on the therapy recommendation.

Naturopathic procedures

"Patients who have cancer have a particularly strong need to seek additional help in naturopathic treatments. We take this seriously," says Dr. Marion Paul, who as chief physician heads the Vivantes Breast Center together with Dr. Claudia Gerber-Schäfer. One of the main reasons for this is that naturopathy offers the opportunity to become active oneself, to strengthen the body's own defenses, and not just to passively undergo therapy. "Cancer patients want to leave no stone unturned," is how the chief physician sums it up. At the Vivantes Breast Center, naturopathic therapies are used in a supportive and complementary manner. They help to improve the quality of life, reduce side effects and can contribute to prevention before and after cancer. The measures range from lavender compresses and Ayurvedic oil pulling to autogenic training, meditation, muscle relaxation and mistletoe therapy, nutrition tailored to the patient's needs, and exercise. A special silicone cap that cools the scalp evenly during chemotherapy is also included. It can significantly reduce hair loss. The chief physician says: "Around 90 percent of breast cancer patients use such complementary measures. It is important to coordinate the procedures in a sensible way in order to achieve a good and healing effect of both the conventional medicines and the naturopathic applications."

Cooling cap - effective against hair loss

Hair falls out - for many breast cancer patients, this is a stressful side effect of chemotherapy. The disease thus becomes visible to the outside world, a fact that is added to the diagnosis, which is already difficult to cope with. Hair loss is caused by the highly effective cancer drugs cytostatics. They destroy not only the tumor cells, but also healthy cells, mainly the fast-growing ones like those of the sensitive hair roots. As a result, the hair falls out and hardly grows back, if at all. A special silicone cap that cools the scalp evenly during chemo can significantly reduce hair loss. A liquid coolant circulates through the cap. The cooling of the scalp is supposed to cause the vessels to constrict, thus reducing the blood supply to the hair roots. In this way, smaller quantities of the cytostatic drugs enter the blood and reach the hair roots via the bloodstream, fewer cells are destroyed, and fewer hairs fall out. Studies and also patients judge the principle to be effective. Doreen G. is a patient at the Vivantes Breast Center. The 47-year-old describes her experience with the cooling cap: "I estimate that I was able to retain more than half of my hair. With my new bob hairstyle, the hair loss is not noticeable at first glance. This way, I can also maintain as much normality as possible on the outside - that's very important to me."

Psychological support

During the entire course of treatment, the two psychooncologists Betina Koch and Lea Zander are at the side of the patients at the Vivantes Breast Center. They approach the women with the disease and try to find out together with them what kind of support might be useful for them. This varies from person to person, because each person has their own way of dealing with stress. "All feelings are allowed: fear, anger, worry, doubt, deep sadness. There is no wrong or right in thinking, feeling and acting," says Betina Koch. Lea Zander adds, "We try to strengthen the power of inner images in the patients, to support and encourage them in their own abilities, and to activate their resources." In addition to individual, couple and family discussions, attending an open discussion group can also be helpful. The exchange among affected women gives strength, and some groups become established and continue after treatment.

Breast reconstruction

If removal of the breast is unavoidable for medical reasons, the Vivantes Breast Center offers immediate or later reconstruction. The center is also a competent partner in the field of plastic-aesthetic breast surgery - breast reduction and enlargement, breast lift, correction of malformations, nipple correction and reconstruction.

Breast cancer - the facts

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in all countries of the industrialized world, accounting for about 30.5 percent of all cases. Since the 1980s, the number of cases has doubled. Despite an increased rate of new cases, the number of deaths has been decreasing for several years. Today, breast cancer can be treated more successfully - with more targeted, often less stressful methods. Early detection has also improved, and interdisciplinary care in certified centers has increased. Five years after diagnosis, around 81.6 percent of patients in Germany are still alive. Currently, one in eight women will develop breast cancer during their lifetime. From the age of 40, and especially from the age of 50, the risk increases, and from the age of 70 it decreases. The exact causes of breast cancer are still poorly understood, but risk factors can be identified, including obesity, alcohol consumption, years of taking sex hormones, childlessness and genetic changes.

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