Recent breast cancer diagnosis? Advice from breast cancer survivors

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Now what? Once you move beyond your initial reaction to a breast cancer diagnosis, whether it is disbelief, fear, anger or uncertainty, what should you do? We asked three breast cancer survivors for words of wisdom to the recently diagnosed.

1. Bring a trusted friend or family member as an advocate to your doctor’s appointments

When faced with a cancer diagnosis the options can seem daunting and the information overwhelming. It can be invaluable to have an advocate in the room to be a second set of ears. A person who is confident enough to ask questions, able to take notes and willing to process the information afterward with you. Advocates should understand their role prior to going to your appointment so they can be prepared.

2. Write down your questions

Create a written list of specific questions prior to your appointments to discuss with your doctor. Let your doctor know that you have questions at the beginning of your appointment.

3. Beware of Dr. Google

Dr. Michelle Boyce Ley, board-certified breast oncology surgeon, medical director of TMC’s Breast Health Program and a breast cancer survivor herself said, “Don’t google outcomes. I’ve seen what’s out there and they don’t look like my own patients.” Tess X, a patient of Dr. Boyce Ley’s, said “I didn’t do much reading outside the basics because you can really get into the weeds and pseudo-science. I looked up my particular variant of BRCA2 and did some calculations on risk over 10 years and lifetime, but I have a biology background. Then I talked with Dr. Boyce Ley to discuss my risks and treatment options.”

4. Talk to your doctor about risk and benefits

“Don’t assume the risks and benefits are the same as a friend’s with the same form of cancer,” Tess X said. Two people can have the same form of cancer, but the treatment plan might be quite different dependent on stage, location and the individual’s aversion to risk.

5. Ask about all the options including if there are options in treatment that they don’t offer.

“It makes me so sad when I give a talk and someone comes up afterward and says, ‘Why didn’t they offer me that?’” said Dr. Michelle Boyce Ley, . It’s important that your physician be willing to discuss all options with you, so you can participate in shared decision-making. “You can’t make a good decision unless you have the information.”

6. Don’t be afraid to share your diagnosis with others

“I met many survivors that way,” said Vanessa Hough Buck. “They have been an encouragement to me. Find a support group of survivors.”

7. Don’t avoid being in photographs while you’re going through treatment

“Even when you don’t feel your best, be in the picture. When I look back now, those are my favorite photos,” Buck said.

8. Let people know what you need from them

“Your friends and family have good intentions but don’t always know what to do. It’s alright to ask for specific help. And it’s OK to say ‘no’ to visitors,” Buck said.

 

Are you a breast cancer survivor? What advice would you give to the recently diagnosed?

TMC for Women has a high risk breast clinic that provides education, treatment options, and coordination to best help high risk patients choose their next steps.

 

 

Comments

  1. Lani Clark says:

    TMC Breast cancer program is absolutely wonderful and Dr Ley is a remarkable lady, surgeon and patient advocate. I could not have been in better hands. Thank you!

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