Genevieve Burns was diagnosed with breast cancer 10 years ago. Today, the 79-year-old Warr Acres resident is a volunteer with Reach to Recovery, a program organized by the American Cancer Society, which matches breast cancer survivors with patients undergoing treatment for that disease.
Though Reach to Recovery does not promote or endorse treatments or products, it aims to provide comfort, emotional grounding and information through the medical decision-making process.
Burns listed some of the immediate questions a newly diagnosed cancer patient might ask a mentor.
The first and foremost question, she said, is almost always:
Am I going to die?
Recent research has boosted the survival rate for many kinds of cancer, she said, so that some types are no longer a foregone fatal situation. Burns offered her best advice for most questions — each case, situation, type and severity of cancer is unique and can be diagnosed only by a medical expert.
But material from the American Cancer Society indicates that between 1975 and 2003, the five-year survival rate for cancer at all sites rose from 50 percent to 66 percent.
Chances, overall, are improving.
What treatment is best; for instance, chemotherapy or radiation?
Such a decision depends on the aggressiveness of the cancer, the genetic background of the patient, the severity of the disease, Burns said.