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What happens after a breast cancer diagnosis?

When someone is diagnosed with breast cancer, the stress can weigh on them and take a toll. Read on to find out ways to help yourself, or a loved one, get through these hard times.

Woman after breast cancer diagnosis

Emotional Reactions

Getting a cancer diagnosis thrusts you into uncertainty and a world full of unknowns and new experiences. Some women react with shock, numbness, fear, sadness, anger; these are all normal experiences. Some women find comfort in talking to other women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, or a counselor, while others take refuge in journaling or spending time with friends and family.

See what one breast cancer survivor created to help other women diagnosed with the disease.

How do you tell your loved ones and friends about your diagnosis, if you choose? See here.

Pathology Reports

A diagnosis of breast cancer can take weeks, with many tests to determine the various characteristics of your cancer and to see if it has spread to any other areas of your body. After a diagnosis has been made, your doctor will talk with you about your pathology report and the kind of breast cancer you have, including whether the cancer is invasive or whether it is contained within the duct or lobule; the involvement of the lymph nodes; the size of tumor; the hormone receptor status; and the HER2/neu status, among other things, says Ask for copies of your report and, if you don’t understand something, ask questions! Although it can be scary to speak up, knowledge is key in making informed decisions.

Treatment Options

Treatment will depend on the stage of your cancer, your overall general health, and whether your tumor is hormone-receptor or HER2 positive. Getting a second or third—or even fourth—opinion on your treatment options may be beneficial in order to get a variety of informed professional opinions and to help you make the best decision for your treatment. Surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and targeted therapy are all treatments used for breast cancer and many women have a combination of treatments.

Learn about dealing with breast cancer with your significant other here.

Tips on dealing with breast cancer and coping with breast cancer.

Choosing a Doctor

Choosing a surgeon and a medical team to help you through your diagnosis and survivorship journey is an important decision. Choose a doctor who focuses on breast cancer surgery and specializes in it—studies have shown that patients tend to have fewer complications when operated on at a hospital that performs high volumes of the specific operation and with a surgeon who specializes in the procedure and is an expert. Your doctor and health care team should talk with you, not at you; be open to any and all questions you may have; be open to second opinions; and, your team should treat you with respect. This is the fight of your life; you have every right to be a contributing and valued member of your health care team!

The importance of friendships

Helping friends beat breast cancer

As Amy got through her cancer treatment and continued her recovery, she was shocked to find out that her best friend was stricken with the same disease.

More on surviving breast cancer

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