Breast Cancer Diagnosis
You’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer. What's next?
If you’re newly diagnosed with breast cancer, you may be feeling overwhelmed with a lot of questions. We’d like to help you address some of the questions and help you prepare for your first oncology appointment.
We hope this guide will help you choose the right path for your breast cancer treatment journey.
Keep a Notebook
It can be hard to remember all the important details that you may want to know or refer back to, especially for your first few doctor's appointments. We suggest getting organized from the start by getting a notebook to keep a record. Write down important information such as how you’re feeling and any medicines or supplements you’re taking. Also, write down your questions and thoughts before you go in.
This is also a good place for notes and answers to your questions during the appointment. Try to put a date on everything you write down.
If a written notebook isn’t easy for you, choose a method that you like and then commit to using it regularly. Often, when information is put on paper you can ease your mind, allowing you to focus thoughts elsewhere.
And remember, communication is key – that goes not only for your doctors but for you, too.
Things to keep in mind when asking about your breast cancer include:
- Information about any genetic connection your family members may need to consider
- Your lifestyle (diet, exercise, rest, stress)
- What to expect during your appointments
- Are there any activities to avoid? Any you should add to your routine?
- Diet and nutrition recommendations
- Who is involved in the cancer care team?
- What are the treatment options, goals and side effects?
- Are clinical trials an option?
- Is there access to supportive care?
How Fast Should I Make Decisions?
Yes, it is important to make good decisions without delay. With cancer it’s important to act but not so fast that you miss opportunities to listen to the recommended treatment plan and consider the questions you may have. The first step is typically scheduling an appointment with a breast cancer specialist.
What Kind of Doctor should I See First?
Typically, patients will move from a PCP (primary care physician) to other physicians. You will see several types of doctors who specialize in cancer during your treatment. They are called oncologists. Oncology is the study of cancer, and a medical oncologist typically leads the care for breast cancer patients after diagnosis.
Your medical oncologist will spend time with you and your loved ones to understand your specific situation and will consult with the New York Oncology Hematology team of breast cancer experts to develop a specific treatment plan for you. They will connect you with additional specialists as needed, including:
- Breast Cancer Surgeon
- Radiation Oncologist
- Specialists who assist with treating side effects caused by cancer or its treatment
- Plastic Surgeon
It’s natural to feel that the first step should be surgery, but it’s best to visit with the breast cancer oncologist first. In some cases, other treatments may be better for your particular diagnosis.
What Kind of Breast Cancer Do I Have?
Your oncology team will classify the type of breast cancer you have based upon hormone receptors and HER2 status. Different types of breast cancer have receptors for certain hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone or the growth-promoting protein called Her2/neu.
Determining whether you have these receptors will help determine the type of breast cancer treatment you receive.
Approximately 2 out of 3 breast cancers have at least one of these receptors. This percentage is higher in older women than in younger women. Your oncologist will perform the tests and then explain how the results may affect your specific treatment plan. Be sure to ask questions along the way!
What is the Extent of My Breast Cancer?
Your oncologist will also determine the extent of your breast cancer based upon the results of the biopsy and images taken. Breast cancer staging refers to identifying the extent of the cancer and then determining the best procedure for treatment. Breast cancer is staged from levels 0 through IV, with each level indicating the size and direction the cancer is invading other tissue or parts of the body. Read more about breast cancer staging here.
Which Breast Cancer Treatments Will I Receive?
Treatments will be based on your specific type of breast cancer, stage of the cancer, your overall health, and other related factors. Possible treatment options include:
- Chemotherapy – cancer-killing drugs either injected into a vein or administered orally.
- Targeted Therapy – specific cancer drugs typically for hormone-receptive cancers.
- Breast Cancer Surgery – may be performed after chemotherapy has first shrunk the tumor and reduced the risk of the cancer spreading.
- Radiation Therapy – high-energy rays for external beam radiation or internal brachytherapy.
- Clinical Trials – The latest therapies or new combinations of existing therapies under investigation for widespread use.
Your oncologist at New York Oncology Hematology will recommend treatment for your individual situation. Because NYOH has seven convenient locations, your treatment can be provided at a site that is most convenient to your home or work.
After Breast Cancer Treatment
Following specific breast cancer treatment, typically some type of follow-up cancer treatments will be recommended to supplement and/or keep a close watch on your treated areas. New York Oncology Hematology will inform you of what is recommended:
- Possible Hormone Therapy
- Reconstructive Surgery
- Follow-up Appointments
Should I Get a Second Opinion?
You should feel confident about your diagnosis and many patients choose to get a second opinion before beginning any treatment plan. At New York Oncology Hematology, our physicians provide many second opinions – for all types of cancer diagnoses and treatment plans. Most insurance companies will cover a second opinion assessment, but you should always check with your insurance provider to check your coverage before making an appointment.
Breast Cancer and You, the Person
We know this is a difficult time, but you can do this. And New York Oncology Hematology’s 30 physicians and 350 cancer care specialists are ready to help you every step of the way. We’re here to answer questions and connect you with the resources you need. Visit our Supportive Care page for more information.
For your convenience, NYOH cancer treatment centers are located in Albany, Amsterdam, Hudson, Troy, and Clifton Park in Saratoga County.