What Happens After Your Breast Cancer Diagnosis?
By Ifeoma O. Nwabuzor, M.D.
One may have the impression of being hit by a freight train. The conversation you have with your doctor to learn about your abnormal mammogram results can be one of the most difficult of your life. However, an abnormal mammogram result does not necessarily mean that you have breast cancer. And if you have breast cancer, it is by no means a death sentence. Treatment options and outcomes have improved dramatically in recent years, ensuring that most women live long, happy and fulfilled after surviving breast cancer.
Nearly 3 million women across the United States have a history of breast cancer and have had this conversation with their doctor. This year, 300,000 more women will be coming. While each of them will have a personalized approach to treating his illness, what they experience in the first hours, days and weeks after their diagnosis will be very similar.
Here's what you can expect after being diagnosed with breast cancer.
You will learn that the results of your mammogram are abnormal
You will probably receive a phone call from your doctor's office to inform you of your abnormal mammography results. At this point, you will not need to ask questions or make any decisions. You will schedule an appointment to talk to your doctor in person. At this appointment, you can ask questions about the steps you will need to take, including going back to the radiologist.
You will have another visit with the radiologist
You will also have another appointment with your radiologist, this time for a biopsy guided by the image. With the help of a CT scan or an ultrasound, the radiologist will take a small amount of tissue to a specific location in your breast to establish an accurate diagnosis.
Your doctor will help dispel common myths
If the results of your biopsy indicate breast cancer, you will need to see your doctor for treatment options that are right for you. Your doctor will also help you address your fears and dispel some of the most common myths about breast cancer, including:
This automatically means that you are going to die: this is not true. In fact, over the past 60 years, breast cancer survival rates have tripled.
You will need a mastectomy or a double mastectomy: in almost 80% of cases, a mastectomy is not necessary. Other less invasive treatment options have similar success rates.
You will need chemotherapy: not all women will need chemotherapy. It really depends on the characteristics of the tumor. For example, very large tumors or tumors that have spread to the outside of the breast may require chemotherapy.
You can not have breast cancer because it does not work in your family: Most women diagnosed with breast cancer do not have a family history of the disease.
Learn more about treatment options
Your doctor will explain more about breast cancer treatment options, which follow a two-pronged approach. It will start with an entire breast treatment to achieve local cancer control, either by lumpectomy with irradiation or by mastectomy with reconstruction. The second approach depends on the type of tumor and whether your lymph nodes are involved or not. In some of these cases, chemotherapy may also be necessary. After your biopsy, your doctor will have a good idea of the treatment that suits you and the duration of it.
While learning that breast cancer is difficult, keep in mind that you are not alone. Your treatment team, your family, your friends and the millions of women who appeared before you are ready to lend their support.
About the author
Dr. Nwabuzor is specialized in Obstetrics and Gynecology (OB / GYN). She strives to provide excellent care and equip patients with information and tools to make the best decisions for their lives and their families.
To make an appointment with Dr. Nwabuzor, call 610-521-4311.
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