Newly diagnosed breast cancer patient? Take a deep breath. In all of my cancer survivor research and experience since my own diagnosis in early 1994, there has never been a cancer with such a wide spectrum of positive to negative. Your first challenge is to figure out what your specific breast cancer type and stage is.
Yes, it is an annoying cliche but knowledge is power. This post encapsulates a few of those basics.
The treatment for newly diagnosed breast cancer can vary depending on several factors, including the type of breast cancer, its stage, the presence of certain biomarkers (like hormone receptors or HER2 status), the patient’s overall health, and individual preferences. Here are some of the most common treatments for breast cancer:
- Surgery: Surgery is often the first step in treating breast cancer. The main types of surgery for breast cancer include:
- Lumpectomy (Breast-Conserving Surgery): This involves removing the tumor and a small margin of surrounding healthy tissue, while preserving the rest of the breast.
- Mastectomy: This involves removing the entire breast. There are different types of mastectomies, including total mastectomy (removal of the whole breast), modified radical mastectomy (removal of the breast, lymph nodes, and lining over the chest muscles), and radical mastectomy (removal of the breast, lymph nodes, and chest wall muscles).
- Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy: This involves removing the first few lymph nodes that cancer cells are likely to spread to. If they are clear of cancer cells, it’s less likely that the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
- Axillary Lymph Node Dissection: This involves removing a larger number of lymph nodes from the underarm area. It may be done if the sentinel nodes are found to contain cancer cells.
- Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays or particles to destroy cancer cells. It is often used after surgery (lumpectomy) to target any remaining cancer cells in the breast or nearby lymph nodes. In some cases, it may also be used before surgery to shrink the tumor.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy involves the use of drugs to kill cancer cells or stop their growth. It can be administered orally or through intravenous (IV) infusion. Chemotherapy is often used to treat breast cancer that has spread beyond the breast or has a high risk of spreading.
- Hormone Therapy: Hormone therapy is used for breast cancers that are hormone receptor-positive. These cancers rely on hormones like estrogen or progesterone to grow. Hormone therapy blocks the effects of these hormones or lowers their levels in the body, helping to prevent cancer growth.
- Targeted Therapy: Targeted therapy drugs are designed to target specific molecules or pathways involved in cancer growth. For example, drugs like Herceptin (trastuzumab) target the HER2 protein in cancers that overexpress it.
- Immunotherapy: Some breast cancers may be treated with immunotherapy drugs, which help the immune system recognize and attack cancer cells.
- Adjuvant Therapy: This is additional treatment given after the primary treatment (such as surgery or chemotherapy) to reduce the risk of cancer recurrence. It may include radiation, hormone therapy, or targeted therapy.
- Neoadjuvant Therapy: This is treatment given before surgery to shrink a tumor and make it easier to remove. It can include chemotherapy, hormone therapy, or targeted therapy.
- Clinical Trials: Participation in clinical trials may be an option, especially for advanced or hard-to-treat cases. Clinical trials test new treatments or treatment combinations.
While conventional oncology is central to your care as a newly diagnosed breast cancer patient, I encourage you to work with additional specialists.
Eat your greens ~ spinach, broccoli, curly lettuce and asparagus. Healthy eating.
My experience, my strength as a long-term cancer survivor focuses on evidence-based CAM aka complementary/alternative medicine. Let me know if you have any questions-
- Cancer Survivor
- Cancer Coach
- Director PeopleBeatingCancer
- Learning you have cancer can make you feel out of control.
- Learning as much as you can about your diagnosis can make you feel more in control.
- Ask your medical provider about your diagnosis and treatment options…
Diverse Responses Among Individuals
Discovering that you have a cancer diagnosis can be a traumatic event for most individuals, although, like variations in personality, the responses to this type of news can be diverse. For some people, the reactions can follow Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s stages of grief. First proposed by Dr. Kübler-Ross, a Swiss-American psychiatrist and pioneer of studies on terminal patients, the stages were
Not all people experience these stages, and the order can be variable…
Guidelines for Action After a Breast Cancer Diagnosis
Here are some guidelines compiled from patient advocacy groups as well as The American Cancer Society, Johns Hopkins Medicine, and The National Breast Cancer Foundation:
- Talk openly with the doctor who delivers your diagnosis.
- Never hesitate to get a second opinion.
- Learn as much as you can about your type of breast cancer. Remember, knowledge is power and will help you feel more in control.
- After you have been informed about your treatment options, carefully decide what feels right to you.
- Reach out to your support group. If you do not have one, there are many you can find online
Once you have decided on your treatment team, consider asking these questions:
- What information do I need to help me decide on treatment?
- What are your goals for my treatment?
- What are the chances that I can be cured?
- What are my chances of a long-term response with a good quality of life?
- Are there clinical trials available to me?
- How will I feel during treatment? Will I be able to work?
- What help will I need to manage the side effects of treatment? When and for how long?
- Should I consider a second opinion regarding my diagnosis and treatment?
- Are there different approaches to treating my kind of cancer?
Remember, there is no “right way” to respond when learning you have a scary-sounding diagnosis. The good news is the prognosis for recovery from breast cancer has improved.
- Five-year survival rates are in the range of 90 percent, and
- 10-year survival is about 80 percent.
Early and better screening has contributed to a 29-percent reduction in the number of women diagnosed with breast cancer that has metastasized, and innovative methods for understanding the biology of tumors have led to improved and less-toxic treatment options.”