Being diagnosed with any kind of cancer usually leaves patients managing a complex mix of emotions, but it’s important to take action quickly. An early diagnosis and immediate treatment can improve patients’ prognoses, so don’t delay. Read on to find out what practical steps must be taken following a breast cancer diagnosis.
Ask for Help
No one who has been diagnosed with breast cancer should have to face this difficult experience alone, so the first step to take is to let family members and other loved ones know what’s going on and ask for support. Undergoing treatment will also require both taking time off from work and paying for medical care or insurance copays, so don’t be afraid to seek the help of a lawyer. Most people with breast cancer are eligible to receive disability benefits, and those who received a diagnosis after being exposed to carcinogens may also be entitled to additional compensation that can help pay for ongoing care.
Prepare for Meetings With Doctors
It will take a team of specialists to treat recently diagnosed breast cancer, so the first step is to meet with these specialists to ask questions, discuss concerns, and come up with a treatment plan. The team of specialists that treat breast cancer usually includes:
- A breast surgeon
- A medical oncologist
- A radiation oncologist
- A plastic surgeon
- A radiologist
Radiation therapists and oncology nurses
Because care planning can be a complex and emotional process, it’s best to arrive at each consultation prepared with a written list of issues to be discussed at the appointment. Many breast cancer patients also bring a spouse, parent, child, or another family member or loved one along to take notes and advocate for them. Patients who plan to attend appointments alone may want to bring a notebook to write down important information.
Research Treatment Options
A patient’s cancer care team will perform diagnostic and staging tests, explain the results, and recommend an appropriate treatment plan. Every situation is a little different, but there are a few common treatments recommended to breast cancer patients. They include surgical interventions like lumpectomies and double mastectomies and medical treatments like chemotherapy, radiation and, in some cases, immunotherapy drugs.
The best place to start when it comes to understanding treatment options is, of course, the doctor’s office. Most patients ask for additional educational resources from their doctors, which can include lists of reputable websites. Take advantage of those educational materials, learn about options, and have an in-depth discussion with a qualified member of the cancer care team before making a decision regarding how to move forward.
Plan for Treatment Side Effects
All breast cancer treatments come with some side effects. Being prepared for them will make it easier to get through the treatment regime successfully, so don’t be afraid to ask doctors what to expect and how long the recovery process will take following surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, and the administration of novel drug therapies. It’s also wise to ask a family member for help with preparing meals, getting around, and other daily tasks following conventional cancer treatments.
Breast Cancer Is Not a Death Sentence
These days, breast cancer is considered a treatable disease. The average five-year relative survival rate across all stages of breast cancer is 90%, but a patient’s prognosis improves the sooner she is diagnosed. Don’t panic, but take action immediately following a breast cancer diagnosis to maximize the odds of making a full recovery.
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