Breast Cancer Surgery
- Ayesha Khan, a reporter at FOX 5 in Washington, D.C., has revealed she had a single mastectomy for her stage 3 invasive breast cancer, but it was later discovered that it spread to her lymph nodes, resulting in chemotherapy treatment.
- Chemotherapy for breast cancer uses strong drugs to kill cancer all over the body. It is possible that patients get this treatment to shrink a tumor before surgery, afterward to get rid of any remaining cancer cells or on its own if the patient cannot have surgery.
- Since Khan’s tumor was located directly behind her nipple, she was worried about losing it during surgery. In a procedure called the nipple-sparing mastectomy, doctors use special techniques to shell out a woman’s breast, leaving the skin, and the nipple, intact.
She has been sharing her story through the television station in multiple installments. On Thursday, the second part of her story was published; she revealed that in October of last year, she had a single mastectomy — breast cancer surgery that removes the entire breast.Read More
But her doctor told her that the reality is, any breast cancer can spread to the lymph nodes. “And that’s what happened in my case once my pathology reports came back,” Khan says. “Which (means) the cancer is upgraded from stage two to now three.”
In addition to an upgraded breast cancer stage, the cancer’s lymph node involvement meant that Khan would need chemotherapy to kill the remaining cancer cells.
“Sobbing like a child had become a daily part of my everyday reality due to the long road I was possibly facing ahead (of) needing chemotherapy,” Khan says.
She sought second opinions from four other doctors, “hoping that maybe one of them was going to favor no need for chemo — and surely that’s the plan I would go with.”
“But all doctor opinions pointed to needing 16 rounds of what essentially is poison,” she adds. “None of the doctors sugar coated anything, nor did I expect them to (be).”
She was told that the first four rounds of chemotherapy would be the worst; she would experience many side effects, including hair loss, changes in nail color, immense fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, hand and foot syndrome, brain fog, hot flashes, insomnia and constipation.
(1/2) Pt.2 of “#Cancer: fight over fear”@fox5dc. I know I’m not the only one going through #chemo to kick #cancer to the curb. I’m getting so many messages from our #DMV community about walking a similar path either in the past or present time (more below) https://t.co/fuHYZyliyk
— Ayesha Khan (@AyeshaKhanNews) February 18, 2022
“It doesn’t just end at chemo for me,” Ayesha Khan says. “Because of the type of cancer I have, I will need six weeks of daily radiation, followed by 10 years of targeted hormonal therapy. In between, I will need reconstruction at the site of the mastectomy.”
“I am confident in my course of chemotherapy treatment, but my case may not be representative of what other breast cancer patients face,” she continues.
“My doctors have said that the prognosis is excellent. My body has been responding very well to the treatments for a diagnosis that is very curable.”
Ayesha Khan’s Cancer Diagnosis
It was Friday, July 20, 2021; it was a hot summer day in the DMV area. Ayesha Khan was meeting a co-worker in the field to work on a story, but when she arrived, she was on the phone with her doctor.
Her doctor said: “Brace yourself, the biopsy came back…”
“All he had to say was ‘brace yourself’ and I just knew,” Khan says. Her worst fear was confirmed: she had breast cancer.
More specifically, the tumor was classified as invasive ductal carcinoma. This is the most common type of breast cancer; about eight in 10 invasive breast cancers are invasive (or infiltrating) ductal carcinomas. Khan’s tumor was in two different places, right behind the nipple; one was 2.8 centimeters in size, and the other was 1.1 centimeters.
Khan received her devastating diagnosis at age 39, a few weeks shy of her 40th birthday. That is relatively young to receive a breast cancer diagnosis, considering organizations like the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and American Cancer Society recommend women start getting yearly mammograms when they turn 45 years old. Women ages 45 to 54 should get a mammogram every year.
Breast cancer mostly occurs in older women, but it is possible for women under the age of 45 — like Khan — to be diagnosed. About 9% of all new breast cancer cases in the U.S. are found in women younger than 45.
“And just like any woman,” Khan says, “I never imagined being that statistic.”
In some ways, a diagnosis for a younger woman can often be even more devastating, Dr. Ann Partridge, an oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, tells SurvivorNet during a previous interview. This is because the disease is likely to be a more aggressive form of the disease and at an advanced stage, as screening for younger women is not standard.
Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer
Chemotherapy for breast cancer uses strong drugs to kill cancer all over the body. It is possible that patients get this treatment to shrink a tumor before surgery, afterward to get rid of any remaining cancer cells or on its own if the patient cannot have surgery.
In Ayesha Khan’s case, she is having chemotherapy after surgery to get rid of the remaining cancer cells that have spread to her lymph nodes.
Whether or not to have chemotherapy can also be the patient’s choice, depending on their age, the type of cancer they have and its stage.
If the patient’s breast cancer is triple-negative, which means the three main types of receptors — estrogen, progesterone and the HER2 protein — do not fuel the cancer, chemotherapy is typically the treatment. This is because the cancer does not respond to certain targeted therapies.
Women who are diagnosed with HER2-positive breast cancer have high levels of the HER2 protein on the outside of their cancer cells. For patients with early-stage disease, meaning they have relatively small tumors and no lymph involvement, a number of HER2-directed therapies have dramatically changed the landscape. These include chemotherapy drug trastuzumab (brand name: Herceptin), as well as pertuzumab (brand name: Perjeta), which is a monoclonal antibody used in combination with chemotherapy.
Breast Cancer Surgery
Since Ayesha Khan’s tumor was located directly behind her nipple, she was worried about losing it during surgery.
Her doctor, Dr. Colette Magnant of Maryland Oncology Hematology, has explained that she would “do everything she can” to surgically spare Khan’s nipple, however, Dr. Magnant also told Khan to “be prepared for losing the entire breast.”
If you are faced with the choice of whether to reconstruct your breast after cancer, figuring out how to preserve your natural appearance is an important issue.
In a procedure called the nipple-sparing mastectomy, doctors use special techniques to shell out a woman’s breast, leaving the skin, and the nipple, intact. The idea is to maintain, as close as possible, the natural look of the breast. After mastectomy, a plastic surgeon will use either an implant or the woman’s own tissue to recreate the breast. When a woman’s own tissue is used, doctors typically take it from fat in the patient’s lower abdomen.
Dr. Irene Wapnir, a breast surgeon at Stanford Medicine, tells SurvivorNet this is “certainly the ideal procedure for those women who chose to have prophylactic mastectomy, who don’t yet have breast cancer.” This is not the case for Khan, but it is extremely important to her to save her nipple.
If sparing her nipple does not work, as Dr. Magnant has said, a complete mastectomy will take place; this procedure is the removal of the entire breast during surgery.