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Deciding on Treatment After Diagnosis

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Deciding on Treatment After Diagnosis  

I’ve just been diagnosed with breast cancer. What should I do, including deciding on treatment?

Learning you have breast cancer is a very difficult thing to accept, but your attitude towards the disease and treatment has an enormous impact on your outcome. The first thing you need to do is be positive. Remember that breast cancer is not a death sentence! Tremendous progress in effectively treating cancer is being made each day. There are treatment options available to you. Allowing yourself to languish in despair only detracts you from overcoming the cancer and getting well.

After a diagnosis of breast cancer, a patient is overwhelmed with a tremendous amount of information — a pathology report, test results, treatment options, etc. Most of the time, newly diagnosed patients are not only anxious, but are on information-overload. Trying to digest everything your doctor tells you, or even remembering to ask your doctor about the questions you thought of the night before can seem next-to-impossible.

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to enlist a good friend or family member to be your co-pilot throughout the diagnosis/treatment consultation process. Bring them with you to your appointments, and let them take notes and keep track of questions and other bits of information. This way, even if you are too overwhelmed after the appointment to remember all that was said, they will remember.

Educating yourself about breast cancer also is important. Knowledge is very empowering. The more you understand about your breast cancer, the less frightening it becomes. Learn about your treatment options and what each one entails. This way, when it comes time to undergo a procedure or test, you will know what to expect, and the experience will be less stressful.

The very fact that you are educating yourself by visiting the healthsearches.org website is an important step! Many other valuable educational resources are available to you online and through telephone helplines, including:

  • National Cancer Institute (www.nci.nih.gov) (Public Information Office phone: 301-435-3848)

  • Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation (www.komen.org) (Tel: 800-IM AWARE)

  • SusanLoveMD.com (www.susanlovemd.com) (Tel: 310-230-1712)

    Talking to other women in your situation also is an important first step. Although friends and family will be able to give you love and support, they cannot really understand what you are going through in the same way someone who is or has gone through it can. Genuine empathy can be very comforting.

    One approach is to join a breast cancer support group in your local area. Going to a meeting does not mean you have to talk. Just go to listen to others’ experiences and feelings. Listening to others who are going through the same thing you are is also a great way to learn the “ins” and “outs” of different tests and treatments, like tips for dealing with treatment side effects and insights about intimacy after surgery.

    The following organizations will be able to help you locate a breast cancer support group in your area:

  • American Cancer Society (www.cancer.org) (Toll-free phone: 1-800-ACS-2345)

  • Cancer Care, Inc. (www.cancercare.org) (Tel: 212-712-8400)

    Another alternative for talking to other women with breast cancer is to visit a breast cancer-focused online chat room.

  • Questions Related to Deciding on Treatment After Diagnosis
    If my cancer does recur, how will I be treated?
    Should I get a second opinion from another doctor about my breast cancer?
    What are the treatment options for breast cancer?
    What things should I consider when deciding on a type of treatment for my breast cancer?
    What does a cancer’s histological grade have to do with selecting a type of treatment?
    What treatments are usually associated with the different stages of breast cancer?
    What is a bone scan? Why do I need one?
    What is the difference between breast cancer and recurrent breast cancer? How do the treatments differ?
    What are breast-conserving surgeries?
    Why do I need so many doctors involved in my treatment for breast cancer? What do all the doctors do?
    What is the difference between local and systemic treatment of breast cancer?
    How is hypercalcemia treated?
    What is the difference between a lumpectomy and a mastectomy?
    When would I choose a mastectomy over a lumpectomy?
    When is radiation added after a mastectomy?
    What is a lumpectomy?
    What is a partial mastectomy?
    What is a radical mastectomy?
    What is a modified radical mastectomy?
    What is a total mastectomy?
    What is a segmental mastectomy?
    What is a skin-sparing mastectomy?
    What is involved with a lumpectomy surgery? How long will it take?
    What is involved with a mastectomy surgery? How long will it take to recover?
    What is radiation therapy?
    When is radiation therapy appropriate for breast cancer?
    When is radiation therapy not an option for breast cancer?
    Does the procedure for external radiation therapy hurt?
    Will external radiation therapy make me radioactive?
    Does radiation therapy increase my risk of my breast cancer recurring?
    Does radiation therapy increase my risk of developing cancer in my other breast?
    Who is a dosimetrist?
    What happens during your radiation setup?
    What happens during the actual treatments with external radiation?
    What is brachytherapy?
    How long will my external radiation therapy take?
    What is a boost dose of radiation?
    What is intraoperative radiation therapy?
    What is hyperfractionated radiation therapy?
    What is radiosurgery ablation?
    Can I take vitamins during radiation treatment?
    What is chemotherapy? How does it work? How is the treatment taken?
    What are SERMs? How do they work?
    What are aromatase inhibitors? How do they work?
    What is tamoxifen? How does it work?
    What is Arimidex?
    What is Taxol?
    What are the different classes of chemotherapy (chemo) drugs used to treat breast cancer?
    What are adjuncts?
    What is bone marrow transplantation?

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