A breast cancer diagnosis is not only scary, it’s just the beginning of a long journey of treatment and care, often accompanied by an overwhelming sense of the unknown for what lies ahead.Though every patient’s journey is unique, we believe that having a better understanding of the general process – the diagnosis, treatment plan, and how to get clarity or other resources from the medical team – can bring a much-needed sense of control.
At Crittenton Hospital we believe in the power of an oncology nurse navigator; someone who from day one can help pull together information from the breast cancer specialists, address the questions and concerns of the patient, and help build a comprehensive overview as to what happens next after a breast cancer diagnosis. Every diagnosis will be different, and each patient experience unique, but here are some of the common steps our nurse navigator identified you’re likely to encounter with when faced with a breast cancer diagnosis.
Though breast cancer is one disease, there are many different types of diagnosis because breast cancer tumors can develop differently. Tumors can be invasive or non-invasive, recurrent or metastasized, and tumor cell locations can exist in different locations like ducts versus lobules or the tissue in between.
Breastcancer.org provides a comprehensive and up-to-date list of the breast cancers in each of these groups. Your physician will be your best source of information about your specific tumor type and will provide detail to ensure that you understand your diagnosis.
Recent advances in technology and treatment options bring a host of powerful new techniques to fight breast cancer. You can expect to review available treatment with your medical team, who will help identify options, explain benefits and risks, and provide an education and comfort level in making decisions about your own unique path. Common breast cancer treatment options include:
- Surgery: including partial breast tissue removal like a lumpectomy
- Chemotherapy: a treatment that destroys cancer cells within the body
- Radiation Therapy: a targeted treatment that destroys cancer cells in the breast, often after the surgery to catch any final cancer cells.
- Hormonal Therapy: reducing the amount of estrogen in the body, which is effective in fighting hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers.
The overall course of treatment for each patient will be determined by such factors as their personal history, the kind of tumor, or the extent of the disease. Plans may include more than one of the above treatments, or more than one option may be available and recommended by the medical team depending upon the effectiveness and the patient’s comfort-level.
Telling Loved Ones:
There is no right timeline when it comes to telling family and loved ones about a diagnosis. While this can be difficult, having a strong support system through each step of the medical journey can be incredibly powerful for patients. Patients who are unsure how to tell others about their diagnosis can walk through this process with their medical team.
“Patients can always talk with our team of social workers, but sometimes they are really just looking to talk it out first. Sometimes explaining it themselves out loud, and talking it through to someone who can calmly listen and provide suggestions can help makes sense of what they want to say before they speak to friends and family,” says oncology nurse navigator, Nicole Phillips.
Phillips, who helps oncology patients through their treatment journey, says her priority is always on the patients and helping them with their needs, whatever they are. She maintains that whenever patients are in doubt about who to talk to, they can always reach out to her. “No question is irrelevant and every question is important.”
After meeting with the medical team and formulating the right medical treatment plan, the next question is often, “what happens next?” While the answer depends on the individual, for a patient who receives a breast cancer diagnosis no day will be exactly the same. Whether it’s questions about handling events like an upcoming family wedding, how to tell your employer or co-workers, or just how to move on with your everyday life, take comfort in the knowledge that your Crittenton support network is focused on your best recovery.
If you have any questions about your diagnosis, treatment care or other questions, please talk to your doctor. For more information about oncology services at Crittenton Hospital, visit our website.