Breast cancer

Question:
My wife is currently learning to dive. She was diagnosed with breast cancer early last year and has recently finished a course of chemotherapy. She will also be taking a course of radiotherapy in the near future, can you advise me of any side-effects or limitations that maybe imposed by this kind of treatment.

 

Answer:
I am sorry about the current problem your wife is suffering, but it is good to hear that the course of treatment is successful and that she is planning to learn to dive.
All my best wishes for a complete recovery and for a pleasant diving activity!
I am copying herebelow an abstract from Alert Diver ( II/99), which I hope will provide you with the required information.
Diving with this condition is generally safe and not contraindicated, unless the complications mentioned below are present, which would not seem the case with your wife.

BREAST CANCER, CANCER & SURGERY

 

Tumors are often removed surgically and treatment of malignant tumors may involve surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy - or a combination of two or three of these procedures. Both chemotherapy and radiotherapy can have toxic effects on the lung, surrounding tissue and body cells that have a rapid growth cycle such as blood cells.

 

Fitness and Diving Issues: Cytotoxic drugs (chemotherapy) and radiation therapy can have unpleasant side effects such as nausea and vomiting, and a prolonged course of therapy can result in greatly decreased energy levels. This makes diving while experiencing such side effects inadvisable. Radiation and some chemotherapeutic drugs can cause pulmonary toxicity. An evaluation to establish the safety of a return to diving should include an assessment of the lung to ensure that damage likely to predispose the diver to pulmonary barotrauma (arterial gas embolism, pneumothorax or pneumomediastinum) is not present. Finally, before diving, healing must have occurred, and the surgeon must be satisfied that immersion in salt water will not contribute to wound infection. Strength, general fitness and well-being should be back to normal. The risk of infection, which may have increased temporarily during chemotherapy or radiotherapy, should have returned to normal levels.