You have breast cancer, now what?

You have breast cancer, now what?

Hearing the words “you have breast cancer” will literally stop you in your tracks. It can be overwhelming, confusing and downright emotional.

It’s important to take a deep breath, clear your mind of all the negative thoughts and focus on getting well again.

“I advise all of my patients to take a step back and remember that knowledge is power. The more you know about your disease and treatment options, the better you will feel about your decisions and be equipped with the tools you need to fight your disease,” says Dr. Gale England, an Advocate Medical Group breast surgeon at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill.

Gain a better understanding of your stage of cancer. Sit down with your doctor and go over the pathology report together. This will provide important information so that you can make the best decisions for your recovery, such as:

  • Type and aggressiveness (grade) of the cancer
  • If it’s invasive
  • If it’s spread to the lymph nodes or other organs
  • Hormone-receptor status

Develop a treatment plan. Your doctor may suggest several treatment options from local therapy, such as surgery, to systemic therapy, such as chemotherapy. Ask questions about the risks and benefits of each option. Consider each option carefully.

Dr. England suggests women consider a second opinion.

“A second opinion can confirm the diagnosis and help you make a decision about treatment options. Some centers may even have different treatment options that could be beneficial to your treatment plan,” says England.

Assemble a support team. Remember that you are not alone. Your spouse, parents, family members and friends want to support you throughout this journey. Also, consider joining a support team at your treatment facility so you can get all of your questions answered along the way.

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About the Author

Johnna Kelly
Johnna Kelly

Johnna Kelly, healthe news contributor, is a manager of public affairs and marketing at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. She is a former newspaper reporter and spent nearly 10 years as a public relations professional working for state and county government. During her time as a communications staffer for the Illinois General Assembly, she was integral in drafting and passing legislation creating Andrea's Law, the nation's first murderer registry. In her spare time, she volunteers at a local homeless shelter, enjoys traveling, photography and watching the Chicago Bulls.