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NBC’s Kristen Dahlgren Opens Up About the Hardest Side Effect of Breast Cancer Treatment

Photo credit: NBC - Getty Images
Photo credit: NBC – Getty Images

From Prevention

  • Kristen Dahlgren, 48, just shared the most difficult side effect of her stage 2 breast cancer treatment.

  • The NBC News correspondent said she’s lost feeling in her chest after having a mastectomy.

  • Dahlgren, who is currently in remission, plans to have a resensation procedure along with tissue reconstruction surgery later this year.

Kristen Dahlgren has been living with a side effect she never expected following her stage 2 breast cancer diagnosis last year. The NBC News correspondent shared in an essay for Today that she experiences “discomfort and numbness” in her chest following a mastectomy.

“Of all of the side effects of treatment, for me, this may be the hardest,” Dahlgren wrote, adding that the lack of feeling is a constant reminder of everything she’s been through. “It hits me every time I take a deep breath, or get a hug, and especially when my daughter lays her head on my chest. That’s when I really ‘feel’ the toll the breast cancer has taken.”

Dahlgren was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in July 2019 after noticing an unusual dent in her breast. Although she had no family history of breast cancer and had received normal mammogram results just five months earlier, she decided to get another test. Shortly after, her breast cancer diagnosis was confirmed.

To treat the disease quickly, she underwent chemotherapy during the coronavirus pandemic and announced on Twitter she was cancer-free in April 2020. “I feel great,” she told Hoda Kotb and Savannah Guthrie in a new interview with Today. “I’m praying every day that my health holds out.”

Dahlgren is now entering the third phase of her recovery: breast reconstruction surgery. She also plans to undergo a “resensation” procedure that will hopefully help her regain feeling in her chest.

Her doctor, Constance Chen, M.D., a reconstructive plastic surgeon who helps breast cancer patients experiencing this side effect, “cannot say it works for everyone, but she says when it works, it works well.”

“Before breast cancer, I never realized that women who have mastectomies lose feeling in their chests. It makes sense, of course—since the nerves are cut during the surgery—but it’s not something that is often talked about,” she wrote in the Today essay. “For me, I’d really just love to feel a hug—or my little girl cuddled up against me on the couch. If [the procedure] doesn’t work, life certainly goes on, but like I have so often in the past year, for now, I am hanging on to hope.”

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