I have survived three cancers, rheumatoid arthritis and a hip replacement. I expected that I would eventually have another cancer. The disease seemed to be written in my stars. However, I wasn’t expecting another complication from my breast cancer treatment.
My first complication was a rare uterine cancer called uterine papillary serous cancer. It is a side effect of being on tamoxifen. This cancer is aggressive and behaves similarly to ovarian cancer in that it is aggressive and can be deadly. It is never caught early. I was fortunate because it was picked up by my rheumatologist on a lower back MRI. So, I spent the entire 2018 with a biopsy, then major robotic surgery, followed by a summer of chemo, finished off with vaginal radiation for the holidays.
My complication was a breast abscess formed in necrotic fat tissue as a result of radiation for breast cancer.
Any surgery or radiation will cause scarring in the healthy tissue. I had a hard lump in my breast after surgery and radiation. I understood it to be scar tissue and I learned to live with it.
The softness of our breasts comes from fat tissue. It is this tissue that formed the scarring from radiation. Cancer doesn’t like radiation but neither does healthy breast tissue. It was this scarred tissue that became necrotic or dead. Fat necrosis is a long term complication from breast cancer radiation treatment. The necrotic tissue in my breast became abscessed. Breast abscess due to fat necrosis due to breast cancer radiation. Sounds awful.
My breast cancer surgeon recognized it instantly for what it was. I was sent to a wound care clinic. The nurses were also familiar with the condition. They said my breast looked more like a bad leg wound. It was a half inch lesion. They poked around inside (didn’t hurt). Much of the tissue was necrotic and also calcified.
I was given a prescription for Santyl which is an ointment that debrides the dead tissue. It dissolves the dead tissue to clean it out. It cost me $95. The going price is $250. The alternative is another surgery much like a mastectomy. I hope this works.