You just found out that you have breast cancer. You may be numb, you may be angry, you may be scared, or it could be a combination of the three. It is easy to get lost or overwhelmed with a disease that is new to you, and doctors (so many doctors!) you have never seen before.
It is very tempting to hit the internet to make sense of it all, but that can turn into quicksand. It is very difficult to find information when you have no idea what you are looking for. We have scouted out websites and pages that we think are easy to follow, and that we hope will provide you a primer in what you need to know as you begin this journey.
As always, this information is not intended to replace your doctors’ advice. It should merely give you background and help you formulate questions so that you can have more effective discussions with your medical team.
Breast cancer overview
Step one in journey is getting to know this disease, how it is generally treated, and how you fit into your treatment decisions. Maybe you are used to dealing with doctors already, or perhaps you have little experience with the medical system (I fell into the latter category). The links in this section are intended to be an overview of breast cancer treatment, as well as some ideas for choosing doctors that are a good fit for YOUR team. At the end of the day, it’s all about you.
Learning the lingo
You are likely finding breast cancer to be a foreign language. You may find the your initial conversations with your doctor are a blur. Unfortunately, decisions come at you quickly. Make sure that you are utilizing your medical team to be as proficient as possible. Here are some suggested topics that you may want to consider.
Understanding the biopsy report
The first time I read my biopsy report, I was lost. It was scary, and full of things I didn’t understand. Your doctor or surgeon should review it with you, but here are some resources that may help understand the contents.
Types of breast cancer
You may be finding that there are numerous types of breast cancer. What kind do you have? Read on for some explanations of common breast cancer types, and what you should know about treatment.
The first question that get asked is “What stage is your cancer?” Staging is a little more complicated than you may realize, made up of a combination of factors. Typically a complete staging can’t be done until you have had surgery, and the doctor has concrete data on tumor sizes and lymph node involvement. Read on for staging explanations.
Your doctor may suggest genetic testing to you, based on a range of factors including family history. Read on for more information on the test and what it means.
Support groups/coping mechanisms
After diagnosis, you may feel alone, and unsure how to cope. A support group may be an option for you, whether it is in person or on-line. Sometimes the only people who understand what you are going through are those who have experienced it as well. Below are some basics on support groups, as well as some other coping mechanisms that may help you navigate this tough time.
Legal Protections (US)
If you live in the US, there are a variety of laws that you will want to become familiar with. These govern your rights as a patient in relation to insurance, time off, and occupational accommodations. Here are some resources to get you started.