“I have breast cancer . . . now what?” You are not alone. You have time to make choices. And you can help yourself. Begin by following these steps:
- Take a breath and ease into the news. The first thing to do is to understand what has happened and what will happen in the upcoming months, depending on your individual treatment. The best way to do this is by researching and creating a list of questions to ask your doctor. Make sure you have these questions answered:
a. What is the stage of my disease?
b. How many tumors do I have and how large are they?
c. What is my tumor’s grade (how abnormal do the cells appear) and histology (type and arrangement of tumor cells), as seen under a microscope?
d. Has the cancer spread to any of my lymph nodes? If yes, how many?
e. Is my particular cancer estrogen receptor positive or progesterone receptor positive?
f. Does the fact that I have (or have not) reached menopause affect my treatment?
- Find your physician/hospital treatment partner. Use the links on this page to find an SSM Health Breast Care physician near you. When you choose SSM, you will be paired with a breast health specialist, who will guide you through the entire treatment process and coordinate care with your specialists.
- Prepare for your appointments. It is important to bring a notebook and another set of ears to your doctor’s appointments to prevent any miscommunication or confusion throughout the treatment process. A trusted friend or relative should be the note taker — they will catch details you miss and will help think of questions for the physician. A tape recorder may be helpful, but as a courtesy, you should ask your physician before using.
- Get another opinion if you feel unsure. If you feel any doubt about anything your doctor tells you, schedule a second opinion. Second opinions are not only available but encouraged by most health care providers in the cancer field. Learn about the latest treatments from a site such as cancer.org.
- Collect the facts . . . carefully. If you want to look for additional information, visit reliable sites ending in .gov, .edu and .org, such as the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society.
- Prepare for treatment. At this time, it is important to address any other medical issues you may have in consultation with your physician. For example, if you smoke, or have a heart condition or diabetes, you doctor may advise you to address these issues before you are cleared for treatment. Then take the time to prepare yourself mentally and physically for your treatment.
Watch a video of Dr. Catherine Lowdermilk as she talks about the latest treatments for breast cancer.