Diagnosis is the first step in dealing with breast cancer. Learn more about what to expect next.
A breast cancer diagnosis is never easy, and while everything might feel overwhelming, understanding what comes next and how you would like to deal with each piece of the process is important. Each individual treatment plan is based on several factors including, the location, size, stage and type of breast cancer you have, your overall well-being, your sensitivity to hormones and your personal preferences.
In this initial period, you and your doctor will try to learn everything you can about your cancer. What type is it? Where is it located? Has it spread, and if so, what is its predicted path? Knowing the stage of your cancer helps to identify whether cancer is at an early, locally advanced or metastatic stage. In turn, this knowledge determines the course of treatment your doctor will recommend.
The stages of breast cancer are:
- 0 — You’ve caught it early, and your cancer has not spread.
- I – III — Your cancer has grown, spreading to nearby tissues and possibly the lymph nodes. The higher the stage, the more advanced the cancer.
- IV — Your cancer has metastasized, or spread to other parts of your body.
Seeking a second opinion
If you would like a second opinion to confirm a breast cancer diagnosis, it’s important to go ahead and get the answers and information you need. At a comprehensive cancer center, like the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center at Keck Medicine of USC, you might be diagnosed by one doctor and then get a second opinion from another doctor – all in the same day and clinic.
Choosing your doctor
Even before treatment begins, it’s important that you choose a doctor with whom you feel comfortable and in whom you have confidence. A benefit of having treatment at a comprehensive cancer center, like USC Norris, is that your medical care is managed by a multidisciplinary team. Our experts provide support every step of the way, from diagnosis to treatment to survivorship. Having trust in your care team and feeling comfortable enough to ask questions will give you peace of mind throughout the process.
Understanding your treatment plan
Telling your friends and family you have cancer
Only you can determine when it’s the right time to talk with friends and family about your diagnosis. Whether you need immediate support or you would like some time to absorb the news on your own, the choice of when to share the information is yours. At first, talking about your condition may be hard, but over time you may feel more at ease discussing your treatment and care with your loved ones.
by Heidi Tyline King
As one of the eight original National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the United States, USC Norris at Keck Medicine is one of the preeminent academic medical institutions in the country. If you are in the Los Angeles area, make an appointment, by calling (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or visiting https://cancer.keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment/.