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Stressful event years before diagnosed?

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  • DavisD
    DavisD Member Posts: 15
    edited March 2015
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    Great question. Yes. Many major stressors for years before diagnosis. Mostly about 4 yrs before but moderately stressful events 7 yrs back. I also turned 50 right before I was diagnosed so I wonder if the connection is perimenopause and age? Also, I think how you handle those stressful events. My major event was beyond horrible and I talked to very few people about it, holding everything inside. My daughter had just left for college and I didn't want her to worry, etc. I remember thinking in 2011 "I did this to myself."  This time, I don't really feel that way. It's more like "how could this happen??" I'm now a vegetarian, don't go through drive thrus, no fried food, walk a lot (could improve on this area), very little sugar, blah,  blah, blah!  I had less than a 1% of recurrence. My Oncologist said he has only seen two other cases like this in his 25 yrs.  I digress....Yes I think extreme stress may activate cancer cells just waiting to attack but I think how we handle that stress is more important.

  • DavisD
    DavisD Member Posts: 15
    edited March 2015
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    Two more things-kayb I concur :)

    I like chocolate!

  • debiann
    debiann Member Posts: 447
    edited March 2015
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    For a few years prior to cancer I had a lot of stress. I usually handle stress well, but this was over the top. Paired with a crazy co-worker, massive layoffs & worry about losing my job, moved to a new position, death of my father all happened in the span of two years while going through an awful menopause. I gained 30 pounds mostly in my belly so lots of cortisol being produced. I also had heart palpitations caused by wacky hormones. My estrogen level was tested once and it was off the chart high. My cancer is 95% estrogen +, no surprise there. Knee and hip pain, anxiety and panic attacks, I was a hot mess! Yet I kept all my balls in the air; worked two jobs, took classes, ran my house.

    That all began around 2008. 2013 the crazy menopause ended. One year later I was feeling better, almost normal. I joined a gym, started losing weight and BAM, cancer dx. I truly think that stress caused changes in my body that allowed cancer to grow and rendered my immune system useless in stopping it. Life is calmer now, hoping that helps me to stay healthy.

  • oceangirl654
    oceangirl654 Member Posts: 59
    edited March 2015
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    Thanks, everyone- Your stories are very interesting, and I agree- for sure stressful events contribute. Take care x

  • DavisD
    DavisD Member Posts: 15
    edited March 2015
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    I gained 30 lbs too, mostly around the waist. I couldn't understand it. I ate better than ever, less calories more nutrition but I stayed the same or gained a little each week! I'm still in this peri menopause and experiencing some of the same symptoms.  You give me hope debiann! 

  • Sjacobs146
    Sjacobs146 Member Posts: 155
    edited March 2015
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    Apologies to the ladies that felt I was angry or insulting. That was not my intent. I personally believe that there are many contributing factors that influence the development of BC, and stress is likely one of them. Since luck isn't exactly scientifically quantifiable, perhaps I should have said that a percentage of us happen to experience the right combinations of factors so that Breast cancer develops.

    But to try to point to one specific event, or habit, or lifestyle choice as a trigger or cause doesn't help us and may lead some women to actually blame themselves.

  • debiann
    debiann Member Posts: 447
    edited March 2015
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    Forgot to mention, during my stressful time I also had an  injury to my breast with a big ugly bruise in the in the exact area my tumor grew. I know that they say that doesn't cause cancer, yet I've heard of many with the same experience. Anyone here have an injury to the breast prior to cancer dx?

    I went for genetic counseling and they told me it takes 2 genetic mutations for cancer to start. If there is only one mutation you don't get cancer. That's why having the BRACA gene is bad, you already have one mutation.

    So while no one know what events or circumstances causes these mutations to happen, you need two of them, unless you were born with a genetic mutation.

  • oceangirl654
    oceangirl654 Member Posts: 59
    edited March 2015
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    I don't understand about mutations. If anyone has a grip on understanding how a cancer mutation starts, please describe it to me! Thanks! I too have had a lot of trouble with perimenopause and hormones. My hormones have practically always been out of whack (bad pms) and got even worse after I had my second child at 33. Now I have super heavy periods and am Iron deficient as a result, I just found out before surgery. Man it's crazy being a woman! Love to all of you x

  • debiann
    debiann Member Posts: 447
    edited March 2015
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    A mutation is an alteration in a gene's make up and it's what causes cancer.

    There can be a heredity mutation in you cells since birth, something that was passed down from a parent.

    You can also acquire a mutation during you life, perhaps from something in the environment (toxins? radiation?)  OR a cell can "misreplicate" itself when dividing. 

    Apparently it takes two mutations for cells to become cancer. If you are born with a heredity mutation, it only takes one more mutation to develop cancer. If you aren't genetically predisposed, then you would need two acquired mutations for cancer to start. 

    As to what the evironmental triggers for mutation are it's not really known. Is it diet,  lifesyle, smoking, alcohol? That's the debate, what sets this thing in motion.


  • oceangirl654
    oceangirl654 Member Posts: 59
    edited March 2015
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    Thanks for explaining this to me! What would make your body unable to get rid of mutated cells (cancer cells) when it's doing fine getting rid of every other thing it has to fight ( in other words, when one is very healthy and rarely catches a cold because one's body is doing fine fighting all the bacteria and germs out there). Why are there so many of us who are healthy, don't smoke etc, and yet our body couldn't get rid of the mutated cells?

  • debiann
    debiann Member Posts: 447
    edited March 2015
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    I've read that since cancer cells are your bodies own cells, not some invading germ, the immune system does not recognize it as dangerous. 

    Immunotherapy helps the immune system fight cancer. Herceptin is an example and so are vaccines. I think some on this forum have been involved in vaccine trails. I don't know what the results have been so far, but wouldn't that be fantastic!

  • meow13
    meow13 Member Posts: 1,363
    edited March 2015
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    I was under considerable stress one year before diagnosis. It was in the form of daily arguments and yelling from my husband. Talk about feeling bullied everyday. I feel like that hurt my immune system.

  • Beachbum1023
    Beachbum1023 Member Posts: 364
    edited March 2015
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    Good morning Ladies, if stress did cause my BC, I have had plenty of that. If I look back for 7 years, the short list of stress is really the long list.

    In the last 7 years, I finalized a very messy and very brutal divorce from my abusive ex. Due to that mess, I lost my farm, my business, and my new truck. I moved and started a new job, and was laid off and returned to college. My Mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and moved to a nursing facility for 24/7 care. I moved home to my Mother's home, and started a new job there. My SIL's nephew was killed in Afghanistan, her cousin was also killed in Afghanistan the following month. Two military funerals in two months. Her father died from cancer, she had to put her horse down and the dog dies the following month. Two months later her sister died from a brain tumor, and the following month she lost her brother to a massive coronary. I couldn't afford to stay in the house, so I rented the house and moved back to my old apartment on the Lake. 7 years later I almost finished paying off the last of the bills dangling from the divorce, and I was diagnosed with triple negative BC with mets. Hmmm, did it start from all the stress with the ex and the divorce, possible. Or did all of the family issues push it over the edge. Or did it just happen. I could argue it both ways, but I will never know for sure. Until they know for sure what actually causes it, it is hard to blame any one reason. But now that I have it, the stress list has started all over again. No job, no insurance, hospital bills for treatment, heart damage from the Adriamycin, and who knows what else is coming my way. It is exhausting.









  • meow13
    meow13 Member Posts: 1,363
    edited March 2015
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    Beach bum I am so sorry you went through all that. Are you still doing radiation? I am battling fatigue, pain and indigestion from exemestane. I made it very clear to my husband no more snide comments and yelling. We will see how stressful his retirement is on me. We might have to get separate living arrangements.

  • Beachbum1023
    Beachbum1023 Member Posts: 364
    edited March 2015
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    Hi meow, thanks, and I have 4 more boosts to finish. I am not having a good go of it, I thought it would be easier after chemo. I feel like I have fried far beyond a "sunburn". I just want to be done. The fatigue and burned armpit is getting on my last nerve. Maybe if retirement is too stressful, he can find another job :) Sorry that all of these drugs have the worst side effects. Do we survive the treatments, or survive cancer? They always say that the fatigue is cumulative, I really think the side effects are cumulative as well, and not in a good way. Now I have so many left overs from chemo that I wonder if I will die from cancer, or a heart attack from the Adriamycin. Or maybe fall down the stairs when I trip over my numb neuropathy feet. Better days ahead, I hope!

  • DavisD
    DavisD Member Posts: 15
    edited March 2015
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    Beachbum-Lady you're amazing! I found many similarities in your story. Prior to first diagnosis in 2011- I lost my horses, barn, a five year old daughter of a good friend died of a subdermal hematoma following a simple fall, my mother had Alzheimers and died after many painful years, separated from husband, new job,etc... Many good things have happened as well and I'm trying to focus on the positive things in my life. I do find myself holding back my feelings about diagnosis because so many in my life are already dealing with similar issues. This forum is proving to be an excellent outlet but I hope I can not just take but also provide support to others.

    Keep putting one foot in front of the other. That's my only advise. I will keep you in my thoughts and hope your fortune turns around.    Diane

  • GardenGirl808
    GardenGirl808 Member Posts: 1
    edited March 2015
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    I am awed and humbled by the situations you all have been through, and survived. You inspire me. When I saw this thread, I thought, yes, I should post on this. I was going through a divorce after 21 years of up and down marriage when I got my diagnosis. Actually, I was pulling into a parking place prior to going to our state-mandated Kids First divorce program. My kids were right there in the car with me when my doctor told me over the phone that I had breast cancer. I had to take them to the divorce program right away, and wasn't able to even call a girlfriend or my sister until the next day. Not the best way to find out. But all of that is nothing compared to what so many of you have endured. Whether or not stress contributes to the development of cancer (and I don't see how it couldn't, although clearly there are many other factors that also need to be involved), there can be no doubt that cancer causes stress and we're all dealing with it now. I have found TM (transcendental meditation--not religious at all, just calming your mind for 20 minutes twice a day) very helpful in dealing with stress. I've also gotten a bit better at just walking away from stressful situations when I can. I home school my 17-year-old son, who has OCD (Obsessive-compulsive disorder), ADD, dysgraphia and dyslexia. He doesn't obsess about cleanliness (I almost wish he did!)--his compulsion is to argue. With everything. Did I mention he's also 17? I used to just sit there and deal with it the best I could. Now I get up and tell him, calmly, that I choose not to deal with this stress, and that I am giving myself a time-out. He almost always is much better when I come back 10 minutes later. My point is that I am realizing that I can do something about some of the stress in my life, but not all of it. One day at a time, sometimes one minute at a time, is how I get through. And I always remind myself that I could be dead. Somehow that puts the stress in perspective. Every moment I have to savor the good things in life is so very precious. Actually, the bottom line is that I feel very lucky. Things could be so much worse. I could be dealing with this all alone. Thank you so much, each of you, for sharing and being there. It's so good to know we're not alone.

  • oceangirl654
    oceangirl654 Member Posts: 59
    edited March 2015
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    Thanks everyone for sharing your situations. It is good that we are not alone and that we know that each of us is going through this as well. Hugs xx

  • Obxflygirl1
    Obxflygirl1 Member Posts: 106
    edited March 2015
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    Everything I've read and heard from several doctors is anything that causes inflammation and damage to our cells, whether it's the environment, stress, diet....sets us up to be subceptible to a tumor forming. I did have a horrible family situation 6 years ago and continuing to this day. Doing my best to take care of myself better.

  • florida2015
    florida2015 Member Posts: 46
    edited March 2015
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    my life was stressful for 19 years before due to having a daughter diagnosed as a toddler with autism. So I personally don't think my stress gave meBc. I do think my choose to go on HRT gave it to me

    I am in my 5os

  • Cosmic69
    Cosmic69 Member Posts: 1
    edited April 2015
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    Hi all

    Years of being in an unhappy marriage and years of moving home every few months may have been a factor, but why has it happened now I am finally settled?

    17 years on various HRTs could also be a factor, after my hysterectomy at 36 for endometriosis. I had really bad menopausal symptoms, so bad I couldn't work, so asked for HRT. Wish I hadn't!

    So that's two ways of looking at it I suppose.

    Cheers from the UK!


  • Jerseygirl927
    Jerseygirl927 Member Posts: 260
    edited May 2015
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    just found this, 2010 lost my mother to blood poisoning, she was 92 but had colon cancer 4 years previous, and she'd been Liiving with us, no dementia still fairly active, like bingo. Then I had a fall, broke elbow, broke 3 ribs, concussion, broke ocular eyebrow, broke neck at c5, in brace for 6 months, spent 6 days in iICU, also had bone contusions cause I fell flat on my face hence concussion without blackout. Oh and 1 broken big toe on opposite side of all the other injuries, except neck. Then I lost my brother in 2014 to aggressive lymphoma that was diagnosed only 3 months prior. Then I fell in August 28 2014 again within 1 year of prior accident and had to have left shoulder replaced due to nature of fall. Within 3 months Dx with breast cancer from mammo that was taken 10 days prior to fall. I know my body was still recovering from broken neck and that fall. So I do personally believe stress is very much a factor for me. I've had other stresses thru ms life but these several events I believe is my cause, and of course my Dx triple + BC. We may never know if this is a major or minor contribution, but bet it has some play in the trigger of B C...

  • MaryAgatha
    MaryAgatha Member Posts: 6
    edited June 2015
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    For whatever it's worth, I will contribute to this discussion by saying that I've had many stressful events in the past seven years, definitely more so than in previous years. Two of my children got diagnosed with autism about seven years ago and I got a new stressful job. However, I must say I didn't feel very emotionally stressed; I'm a pretty easy going person in general. I did end up pulling a lot of all-nighters - researching things about my children, working late into the night to meet deadlines at work, my children had sleep issues and kept me up many nights, etc. There is a family history of cancer but perhaps lack of sleep triggered my predisposition to develop cancer. I wish I had read this article sooner and had taken better care of myself. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/07/24/interrupted-sleep.aspx

  • debiann
    debiann Member Posts: 447
    edited June 2015
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     Starting 2008, lots  and lots of stress at work plus the death of my father while going through menopause. 2014, BC dx.

  • mira845
    mira845 Member Posts: 23
    edited June 2015
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    Hmmm...this post hit me. As with other posters responding, I believe there is a multitude of reasons cancer developes in some and not others. Just as we all respond to things differently be it physical or mental. This is shown just from reading about cancer and how everybody reacts/responds diffetently to treatments

    But, I can tell you, I had a couple of traumatic experiences in my life, be it my dad dying of lung cancer, my baby daughter diagnosed with a plastic anemia and the doc saying, gee, a luechemia diagnoses would have been better.

    But, 7 years ago, my then husband of 24 years pulled the rug out from under me leaving me and the kids for an employee of ours half his age and turning into an abusive a-hole I did not recognize. Now I know I am certainly not unique in this experience, this happens to people, but I can tell you, I would wake up with my heart beating out of my chest, I couldn't eat, I lost 50+ lbs in under 2 months. I was a zombie. I look back and say geeze, Mira, wtf? But that's what happened. That's how I reacted. Its been a struggle since but I will never forget those feelings....still have trouble accepting the whole thing.

    Another thing that has always stayed in my mind is my ex's aunt. She went thru a bitter divorce. She never was the same. Oh, it was a joke in the family about how she couldn't get over it, past it. Got diagnosed with BC 10-15 or so years later and eventually died from it.

    A lot of it has to be some kind of mental state....idk. Does it matter? Well not now....cause now, I got it.

  • whippetmom
    whippetmom Member Posts: 6,028
    edited June 2015
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    I have always felt certain that overwhelming stress in my life, starting five years prior to my diagnosis, had a huge role to play in the onset of breast cancer.

  • lifelover
    lifelover Member Posts: 263
    edited August 2015
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    My oncologist says stress plays a huge part - he says even positive stress can affect our bodies in a negative way.

    If that's the case, then it is no wonder I've had cancer twice. But not everyone will get cancer because of stress. I must have the weaker genes that triggered the cancer.

    I guess.

    But it doesn't seem to matter because now I can't do much of anything except worry and what's the point of that?


  • Ewt717
    Ewt717 Member Posts: 2
    edited September 2015
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    could be coincidence but yes, extreme stress, divorce,seven years prior.

  • QueenElizabethTheFaux
    QueenElizabethTheFaux Member Posts: 8
    edited September 2015
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    Hi, I'm a newbie (just got biopsy results a few days ago & have lots of appts to go to for staging, exact type, etc.) This is a good topic of discussion & I appreciate reading your honest opinions & thoughts regarding the question, which really is..."Why did I/we get breast cancer?"

    I think I know why I (personally) got the cancer & don't think it was from a stress related event seven years ago. That doesn't mean the research, and your experiences, are right or wrong. Science, coupled w/psychology, research is amazing stuff and holds a lot of answers to our questions.

    (Fwiw: I'm 52 yrs old & have lived a life of what most people might see as "stressful." 1.) Came from a large, poor, family. There's always stress, here & there, in a huge family. 2.) I was a patrol officer, & later a detective, in a mid-sized city for 20 years. Plenty of stress w/that job! But I loved doing it & always tried to do it well. 3.) Had to retire early bcuz of excruciating medical issues w/my cervical spine. 4.) I'm a mom & have been married twice & 5.) A cardiologist accidentally killed my beloved dad, my mentor, almost 20 yrs ago. That was devastating.)

    But, in my case, I firmly believe I'm supposed to be exactly where I am right now.
    I'm supposed to experience this gawd awful Breast Cancer & learn a lot from having it, from enduring it's physical & mental pain AND cherish our times here on this site with any/all of you who chose to become an endeared new friend with me. Much love & peace to each of you. Carpe Diem. Xoxoxo

  • moderators
    moderators Posts: 8,289
    edited September 2015
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    QueenElizabeth-

    We want to welcome you to BCO, and thank you for sharing your perspective. We're sorry you find yourself here, but we're glad you've joined us, and look forward to reading more from you!

    The Mods