You’ve Been Diagnosed with Breast Cancer, Now What?
No one is ever prepared to hear those dreaded words, “You have breast cancer.” But, stop and breathe – you are not alone in this.
You may have read that Julia Louis-Dreyfus announced that she has breast cancer. The Emmy award-winning actress pointed out in her statement that she has joined the one in eight women who have that same diagnosis.
They have all been where you are right now; reeling from news that they didn’t want to hear and unsure of what they should do next.
“It is completely normal for women to feel sad, angry and even confused after hearing that they have breast cancer,” assures Dr. Carmen Calfa, a breast medical oncologist with Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Having a plan really helps.”
These seven steps can help you regain a feeling of control and approach your cancer diagnosis in a way that makes sense.
- Don’t just accept the first treatment recommendation you receive: get a second opinion and listen to the reasons for each one’s recommendations.
- Ask other cancer patients, friends, and medical professionals for names of breast cancer experts for second opinion. Don’t use two doctors in the same practice, and make sure they are not affiliated. That’s the only way to get a true second opinion.
- Set up your appointments as soon as possible, and get copies of all your medical records to them in advance. Create a paper trail. You should have a complete file of any surgical or biopsy reports. They may be needed years later and be difficult to track down.
- Do your own research, but wait until you have all the facts. Reputable sources that are evidence-based will help you ask the right questions. But, trying to become an expert in the field could be overwhelming. Research and find the right expert for you.
- Take someone with you to the appointment. When dealing with a highly emotional issue like cancer treatment, is hard to hear or remember everything. The person next to you will allow you to re-hear it in a more neutral environment and share it with your family.
- Ask the doctors to explain treatment options and their benefits in a way that makes sense to you. Ask about the clinical research they conduct and your opportunities to participate, if interested. Work with your doctor to set up your goals.
- Remember that the ultimate decision is yours. You and your doctors are partners in this undertaking. For your best outcome your physical health is as important as the emotional health. When you feel in control, your family is also reassured.
The physician and cancer center you choose is there to fight for you and with you every step of the way. Don’t worry; it may seem like a lot right now but you will get through this.– Dr. Calfa