Knowing what to expect after a breast cancer diagnosis can help ease anxiety and reassure patients as they begin their treatment.

What to expect after a breast cancer diagnosis

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A diagnosis of breast cancer – or any cancer for that matter – changes a person’s life forever.

We don’t like to share the news of a cancer diagnosis over the phone. We want to be able to look people in the eye and hold their hand and explain what will happen next.

In our breast center, a radiologist gives a patient the news that they have breast cancer.

A nurse navigator is either part of that meeting or is connected to the patient as soon as possible afterward to get them started on their journey.

Here are the next steps:

Assemble Your Care Team

Your support team includes a medical oncologist, surgical oncologist, radiation oncologist, primary care provider, nurse navigator and caregivers/support people at home.

Your nurse navigator can help you understand the role of each specialist and coordinate appointments for you. Ultimately, it’s up to you to choose your specialists based on qualities important to you, but we can recommend doctors with experience treating breast cancer.

Receive an Individualized Care Plan

With breast cancer, it’s not necessarily about getting treatment as early as possible as it is lining up the most appropriate treatment. Early stage breast cancers have the potential for cure, so the goal is a thorough evaluation and multidisciplinary approach involving many specialists so we can set up the best course of action.

You will also receive information about support groups. You can get advice there about telling your children about the disease, side effects, issues that may develop with your significant other and workplace topics, for example.  A nurse navigator can help connect you to these resources, as well as help you overcome any other issues or barriers to care. 

Start Treatment

Treatment for breast cancer may include surgery, medications and radiation therapy. Some women get a combination of all three. Some will get one or two types of treatment depending on the variables for their particular breast cancer. Some women will have chemotherapy before surgery to shrink the tumor. This may lead to increased surgical options and better cosmetic outcomes. Medicine to treat cancer isn’t limited to chemotherapy. It could be hormonal therapy, not to be confused with menopausal hormone therapy, or drugs considered to be targeted therapy that block the growth and spread of specific cancer cells.

Survivorship Plan

Once your doctors consider your treatment complete, we will develop a “survivorship plan.” These comprehensive plans include a list of all the treatments you’ve received and review the potential short-term and long-term side effects. Instructions for follow-up visits, scans, exercise programs and diet will also be included. We will share your survivorship plan with your primary doctor to be involved in your follow-up care