Saturday, 13 November 2010

And another thing ...

As I mentioned previously, I needed to have a baseline DEXA scan because aromatase inhibitors can cause loss of bone density. So last week I toddled off to yet another hospital for this.  It was one of the easiest and most efficient appointments I have had and, having arrived 5 minutes early, I was actually seen ahead of my appointment time.  The scan itself was painless and quite relaxing, and I was leaving the hospital within 25 minutes of arriving - definitely a record.

Now this was one test/scan about which I was feeling confident.  A few years ago my mother had one and was found to have good dense bones, I do a fair bit of weight bearing exercise and although I bruise horribly when I fall doing things like curling, I've never yet broken anything.  It was therefore quite a shock to receive the letter from my oncologist saying that the scan had shown thinning of the bones in the spine and hip and that I should see my GP to start vitamin D and calcium supplements and discuss a weekly bisphosphonate. As my GP is on holiday I can't even book an appointment yet because of the fact that you can't book more than a certain period in advance (which seems a bit odd when the reason you can't see her before is because she is on holiday.) As I'll be at a conference when booking opens, I don't suppose I'll get one all that soon.  I suppose that gives me more time to research all the possibilities and compile my list of questions.

I did, however, find out that my GP has not received her copy of the letter nor the copy of the scan report. This might not be surprising in light of the fact that the circulation list on the letter names a GP who retired years ago.  This is a little curious because the letter after my check up last month was sent to the correct GP!  What is marginally surprising is that I received my copy of the letter, given that one of the eight mistakes in it is in my address...

This latest news puts me in a bit of a quandary.  Not long after my surgery I decided to cut back considerably on the amount of diary produce I eat and drink.  Although nothing is really proven, there is a theory linking consumption of diary with breast cancer.  While I had no intention of cutting it out completely (I think I may be addicted to cheese), I did decide it would be prudent to reduce it somewhat. Now I am less sure, as it would be a good natural source of calcium. I certainly don't want to go back to tamoxifen, because although some side effects are worse on Aromasin, I really do feel much better in myself on this than I did on tamoxifen.

Now that the initial shock and feeling of "what next?" has worn off, I am very pleased that another benefit of the switch to Aromasin was having the DEXA scan. Were it not for this, I might not have found out until it had progressed from osteopenia to osteoporosis.

Sometimes it seems that part of living in the land of New Normal is that for every few steps forward I take, I end up being blown back a step. The encouragement is that at least I am still gaining ground, just a little more slowly than I would like.


  1. Hi Eliza!! Lovely blog and look forward to following you! My Dexa scan was the one and only test where I came top of the class with A1 bones - I too love dairy and although I managed to cut right down during chemo I have slipped back into old habits! Di xxx

  2. Can you see any other GP at the same surgery to get the prescription you need?

    Re: GP not receiving letters, after my GP didn't receive the first letter I got a copy of, I've been copying my one and sending it to my GP myself. The hospital is also sending mine to the head of the Practice, who is now retired.

    Re: dairy - I became lactose-intolerant during chemo and reinstated all things dairy afterwards (I'm a vegetarian and like/want the cheese for protein).

    Be wary of any report claiming that food [x] causes cancer. Dairy really won't be a culprit.

    The mention of low cancer rates in some low-dairy-eating Asians is only correlationaland isn't a robust result as it doesn't take into account any other factors.

    Someone else I know thinks sugar is the culprit. Another thinks it's cooked food.

  3. Thanks, Di!

    Paola, I don't mind waiting to see my own GP, it is just the nuisance of not being able to make the appointment. I took my copy of the letter and the surgery copied it; the problem is that the hospital didn't send me a copy of the scan report to pass on. However, I think there is a conversation to have ...!

    My feeling is that it is highly unlikely that there is any single cause of breast cancer - or indeed any other cancer. However, I am equally sure that it is not possible to say that diary is definitely NOT a contributing factor, although I agree with you that using the low dairy consumption in Asia is a gross over-simplification of the data. For a number of reasons I would like to continue to limit the amount of dairy I consume.

    Thanks for your support,