SheKnows caught up with Marisa C Weiss, MD, acclaimed breast oncologist and founder of Breastcancer.org, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing expert medical information on breast health. The breast cancer expert shares her advice for women newly diagnosed with the disease.
A Q&A with Marisa C Weiss, MD about breast cancer
SheKnows: What questions should women in their 20’s ask their doctors about breast health?
Dr Marisa Weiss: How do I keep my breasts healthy? How do I perform a proper breast self-exam? Does my family history of breast cancer (mother or father’s side of the family) require me to start breast cancer early detection earlier than the “average woman” (who would start around age 40)?
Advice for women newly diagnosed with breast cancer
SheKnows: What can a woman expect after being newly diagnosed with breast cancer?
Dr Marisa Weiss: [A woman should] expect to feel overwhelmed, confused and anxious. You’ll be arranging multiple tests and doctor’s visits and procedures to first, define the extent and nature of the disease and then, to establish a comprehensive treatment plan incorporating the appropriate medicine, surgical, and radiation therapies.
SheKnows: What are three key things that you always tell a woman newly diagnosed with breast cancer?
Dr Marisa Weiss: [Remember to take] one step at a time. It’s not an emergency. You can take the time to establish the most accurate diagnosis and the most tailored treatment plan. Don’t do it alone. Reach out to your close network of family and friends to get you through it.
Knowledge is power: Learn more about breast cancer
SheKnows: What is the most current information on self-breast exams?
Dr Marisa Weiss: See information at Breastcancer.org. We recommend [self-breast exams] to women, as they are complementary to other methods of detection. They are free, convenient and may be the one way a cancer could be found early – when it’s most likely to be curable.
SheKnows: When women are given the choice between a lumpectomy and a mastectomy, how should they approach that decision and what do they need to know?
Dr Marisa Weiss: The standard of care treat[s] the whole breast one way or another: mastectomy (removes the breast) or lumpectomy and radiation to the remainder of the breast. These two approaches are equally effective for women with one site of cancer in the breast that can be completely removed with clear margins of resection.
SheKnows: Does treatment affect a woman’s fertility?
Dr Marisa Weiss: Some treatments can affect fertility, like some forms of chemotherapy particularly in women who are over age 40.
Advice for loved ones of women with breast cancer
SheKnows: Many of us have a friend or loved one who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. We want to help and be supportive, but we don’t know where to start. What would you recommend?
Dr Marisa Weiss: My recommendations:
- Offer to do the everyday mundane tasks like buy food, drop off dinner, pick up dry cleaning, handle note cards, carpool kids, etc.
- Offer to drive her to her treatments, a lunch out, a movie break, etc.
- Offer and make it easy for her to accept but don’t impose your offer.
- Submit your offer by email so you don’t put her on the spot.
Be sure to check out Dr Weiss’ book, Taking Care of Your “Girls” for more information on spreading breast health awareness and helping loved ones dealing with breast cancer.
Sources for more information on breast cancer
Taking Care of You “Girls” teaches young teen girls
Be pro-active against cancer
The Breast Cancer Journey Planner
Breast cancer: What is it? And what are the causes?
Breast cancer research