Suggestions for Women Newly Diagnosed with Breast Cancer

Being diagnosed with breast cancer is often frightening and confusing. It is easy to feel lost in a world of unfamiliar medical terms and procedures. Questions about diagnosis, treatment, money, relationships, and quality of life can cause you worry and stress. Sometimes you don’t even know where to begin or what questions to ask. You are not alone in this journey. Getting informed will hopefully make dealing with health care providers, hospitals, and your health easier and less intimidating for you and your loved ones.

The best thing that you can do for yourself now is to give yourself time to think about your options. You need not feel rushed into making decisions you are not comfortable with or do not fully understand. You have time to gather information and make informed decisions. A few weeks most likely will not influence your treatment outcome, but it may make a huge difference in your state of mind. Your diagnosis will be presented to you with a series of choices; what matters is that you make the choices that are right for you. The process may seem overwhelming and leave you with a lot of uncertainty. You can ask people you trust to help you make the choices that lie ahead. You and your family or friends can become advocates by doing research and talking to experts.

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Visits to Your Health Care Provider

This is a period of time in your life when you may experience miscommunication or confusion. Visiting health care providers can be one of the most unsettling parts of having cancer. Being prepared for health care provider visits can make you more confident and save a lot of time and frustration. It may seem as though your health care provider is bombarding you with a lot of information. You are being told a lot of information, and you may feel silly or stupid asking questions or admitting that you do not understand. It is natural to be less able to grasp new concepts now than you would normally be able to.

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  • Remember: This may be a team effort, but you are the team leader. You will be talking with a number of doctors and advocates who will make recommendations for your care. As the patient, you have the final decision.
  • Do not be afraid to seek out a second opinion. Second opinions are not only available but encouraged by most health care providers in the cancer field. Do not be surprised if you get different opinions from different doctors.
  • Have a three-ring binder handy. Use it to collect and retain all your paperwork (insurance information, laboratory reports, health care provider’s notes, hospital forms).
  • Begin a list of questions, and keep it in your binder.
  • Locate your insurance policy if you have one, and familiarize yourself with the details of your coverage.
  • Take along a tape recorder, and ask if you can use it. Health care providers will be presenting unfamiliar concepts and using terms that you may not be familiar with. The tape recorder will give you a chance to listen later at your own pace.
  • Another set of ears can also prove to be helpful. Not only will a loved one help with remembering what your health care provider says, but she or he may also help curb the anxiety associated with the whole process of the health care provider’s visit.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for more information from your health care provider at any time. It is OK to call if you are experiencing pain or have a question.

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This information is excerpted from BCA’s brochure for women newly diagnosed with breast cancerthat includes suggested questions to ask your health care provider and much more. To receive a hard copy by mail, contact us at 877/2-STOP-BC or info@bcaction.org. BCA’s web site also has information about what to do when someone you know has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

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