So you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer. What now?
It takes a lot of courage to make a doctor’s appointment. Many people are scared to take this step because they’re worried about what the doctor will tell them. One of the biggest worries is hearing the doctor say the dreaded C word.
A breast cancer diagnosis can feel like the end of the world. It’s scary, it’s worrying, and it might seem impossible to see beyond your diagnosis. But try to remain calm. This isn’t the end, but it is the beginning of your cancer journey. This article will detail what you can expect in the coming months.
After getting your breast cancer diagnosis, one of the first things you’ll notice is how much medical jargon is thrown your way. Understanding what these new terms mean can make the start of your journey much smoother. To help, here are some common words you might hear during your diagnosis.
A biopsy is a sample of your breast tissue removed from your body and tested for cancer. These samples can be taken in different ways. It’s best to check with your doctor so you know what to expect.
Your cancer grade is different from your cancer stage. A cancer grade specifies how quickly the cancer cells are growing and how different these cells are from your healthy, normal ones. Your cancer grade can be between Grade 1 and 3 – with 3 representing the most aggressive cancers. What grade you are in will determine what treatment is best for you.
Cancer stages start at 1 and can progress to Stage 4. These stages describe the size and spread of your breast cancer. Stage 1 includes small tumours that haven’t yet spread to the lymph nodes. As the number increases, the stages increase in severity, including the tumour’s size, the cancer’s spread to surrounding lymph nodes, and other affected parts of the body.
This is a term you’ll probably hear a lot after your diagnosis. Oncology describes everything to do with cancer. From cancer studies to diagnosis and treatment, oncology covers it all. You might also meet an oncologist, which is just another name for a specialist doctor of cancer.
After a biopsy is taken, it needs to be tested for more information. These tests will be sent to pathology to be tested by a pathologist.
When a doctor talks about your prognosis, they’re talking about the predicted outcome of your cancer. This includes your predicted life expectancy and the likelihood of your cancer returning.
When a person enters remission, this means that there are no more traces of cancer left in your body. Doctors don’t like to use the word ‘cured’, as cancer can sometimes reappear. But, overall, this is a great word to hear, and hopefully, you’ll reach this stage.
Thankfully there are several kinds of treatment for breast cancer. The type of treatment your doctor suggests will depend on the stage and grade of your cancer, general health, and if you’ve been through menopause.
Types of treatment range from surgery to chemotherapy. Other treatments also include radiotherapy or hormone therapy. Sometimes a combination of these treatments can also be tried for the best results – an example being intraoperative radiotherapy.
If you have any concerns about the treatment your doctor suggests, don’t be afraid to discuss these. Your doctor will try to provide a treatment that suits your needs while keeping your health a priority.
Last but certainly not least (and arguably the most important section of this article) is available support. From NHS resources to breast cancer charities, there is plenty of help out there.
Going through a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment can feel incredibly lonely. Even if friends and family surround you, you might still feel isolated. A way to help this lonely feeling could be to get in touch with people experiencing the same things as you. These can be in-person groups, online forums, or a one-to-one chat.
However, this doesn’t mean you can’t talk to your friends or family about your worries. Open communication can greatly help feelings of stress, anxiety, and even guilt. Never underestimate the power of talking things out with your friends or family.