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What to do after you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer

breast cancerAs a nurse navigator for breast cancer patients, I connect with individuals just minutes after they are diagnosed. This is an emotional time and often I get asked, “What do I do now?”

Below are suggestions I make to patients after they have been told they have breast cancer:

Utilize your Care Team

A lot of the time women turn to the Internet for answers to their cancer questions, but not everything online is reliable. Instead, I encourage families to make a list of their concerns and questions to take to their Care Team. Having questions ready to ask will help your team provide you with the information you need to feel secure in your treatment options.

Avoid comparisons

Try not to compare breast cancer treatments with other breast cancer survivors. There are more than 15 different types of breast cancer, and each case may be treated differently. Hearing other peoples’ stories of cancer can just create more fear and confusion.

Understand your emotions

Being diagnosed with breast cancer is scary. It can be emotionally challenging dealing with the idea of cancer. Fear, anxiousness, anger, disappointment and feeling overwhelmed are all normal emotions to encounter after you are diagnosed.

Fear can have many physiological effects on your body and can waste needed energy. Take steps to decrease your level of fear by educating yourself on the type of cancer you have.

Keep in mind that most of the time you do not need to start breast cancer treatment right away. In most cases you have time (several weeks) to gather information, meet your providers and work through the emotions that come with the new diagnosis.

Communicate to your friends and family

When those closest to you learn you have breast cancer, it is natural for them to want to help. However, multiple visits and increased phone calls about how you are doing can be overwhelming. When discussing your diagnosis, choose a close friend or family member that knows the details of your situation.

Utilizing technology to help communicate your steps of treatment can be very helpful.  Consider using an online website support program or sending frequent emails to keep your loved ones informed.

Watch Brenda’s cancer story:

About Darci Grota, RN, BSN

Darci Grota is a breast cancer patient navigator at St. Elizabeth Hospital. She helps breast cancer patients throughout the diagnosis, treatment and recovery process, acting as a liaison between patients and the medical professionals they encounter.

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