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How To Handle Breast Cancer Diagnosis

A Note About Depression

How Do Doctors Diagnose and Treat Breast Cancer?

A National Academy of Sciences study found that depression is common in breast cancer patients, and it usually develops in the first three months after diagnosis. A 2015 study quantified this, and found that the rates of severe depression was 36%.

Let your healthcare team know that you’re experiencing stress or sadness, so they can suggest counseling and perhaps medication. Depression is more common in people who have previously experienced depression, but is common in people with no history of depression as well.

The alternative therapies mentioned above can be helpful. With support from other survivors, family, friends, and your healthcare providers, you can get through your breast cancer journey more easily.

Getting Ready To Talk To Others

Only you can decide when to tell your friends and family you have cancer. People are very sobered by the news that someone has cancer. Most people need and want to talk to someone when they find themselves in this kind of situation. It may be even more important for single people without supportive family members nearby to let close friends know whats happening. Think ahead so you can tell them what they can do when they ask how they can help people who live alone often have a few extra needs compared to those who live with others.

Sometimes, telling those closest to you helps you take in the reality of whats happening. Some people find that by talking, they begin to solve problems and think about other issues as their family and friends ask questions.

Think about how much you want to share. You might want to explain what kind of cancer you have, which treatments you might need, and your outlook . As you talk with others, you may want to write down the questions that come up so that you can discuss them with your cancer care team.

Make Sure Youre Cared For Too

Taking care of a loved one whos experiencing a serious illness can affect you, not just emotionally, but physically. The stress and concern I experienced over my moms diagnosis led to disrupted sleep, a constantly upset stomach, and a diminished appetite. This made supporting and caring for my mom more difficult than it needed to be.

Prioritizing your well-being with simple things, like making sure youre hydrated, eating regularly, and dealing with your stress, ensures you can continue to care for a loved one in a manageable way.

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The Importance Of Communication

Communication is one of the fundamental aspects of the relationship between people. Proper communication with health personnel and loved ones can be an invaluable help to facilitate both your well-being and your adaptation to the disease. When undergoing your breast cancer treatment Orange County-based offers many health professionals that you can speak with.

Connecting With People Who Understand

Breast Cancer, Medical Infographic. Diagnostics, Symptoms, Treat Stock ...

For some people, connecting with others who are in a similar situation can help reduce feelings of isolation, as well as anxiety or fear.

Breast Cancer Nows Someone Like Me service can put you in touch with someone with a similar experience of breast cancer. You can talk through your worries and share experiences over the phone.

If you prefer to chat by email, you can use the Someone Like Me email service.

Our online Forum lets you exchange tips on coping, ask questions, share experiences and talk through concerns online.

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Lifestyle Changes After Breast Cancer

Lifestyle Changes after Breast Cancer Treatment: Conversations on Survival. A group of breast cancer survivors openly discuss what lifestyle changes were continued or changed after treatment. The importance of living in the moment, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and knowing what is really important in life are all discussed.

To help yourself better cope with the side effects of breast cancer treatment and to reduce your chances of breast cancer recurrence, try incorporating these healthy tips:

1) Take care of yourself emotionally

  • Put your needs first sometimes
  • Attend a support group or find a breast cancer survivor you can talk with
  • Stay informed about new breast cancer research
  • Consider psychotherapy and/or antidepressants if warranted if youre taking tamoxifen, check with your oncologist to ensure the prescribed antidepressant does not interfere with your endocrine treatment
  • Communicate with your doctor about fears or concerns
  • Volunteer or become a breast cancer advocate

2) Take care of yourself physically

  • Exercise regularly
  • Report any physical changes to either your oncologist or primary care provider
  • Seek treatment for lymphedema if you experience signs

3) Eat healthy

Research has shown that a diet high in fat and calories increases circulating estrogen in the blood. Consuming a low fat and low calorie diet after breast cancer can improve your overall health and wellness. Here are some dietary suggestions:

4) Reduce stress

5) Limit alcohol

6) Exercise regularly

If Youre Feeling Overwhelmed

Its normal to feel overwhelmed when youve been diagnosed with cancer.

It can be hard to think straight or carry out normal everyday activities.

Some people have physical symptoms such as loss of appetite, diarrhoea or difficulty sleeping.

If youre feeling overwhelmed, it can help to talk to your GP. They can offer support and medication that can help in the short term.

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Bring Up Cancer Unexpectedly

Sometimes people will try to comfort you on a day when you are feeling especially angry. Or a person may come up to you and start talking about your cancer when youre trying to focus on your childs play at school. Maybe someone you barely recognize stops you in the grocery store with the sad story of her fathers cancer. You really dont want to hear their story, but you know theyre just trying to be nice or relate to you. How can you stop them politely? Sometimes you just have to take a couple of deep breaths and say calmly, Thank you so much for your concern, but I need to focus on something else today. Remember, its always your decision about whether or not you choose to discuss it.

Can Cancer Form In Other Parts Of The Breast

How To Cope With a Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Cancers can also form in other parts of the breast, but these types of cancer are less common. These can include:

  • Angiosarcomas. This type of cancer begins in the cells that make up the lining of blood or lymph vessels. These cancers can start in breast tissue or breast skin. They are rare.
  • Inflammatory breast cancer. This type of cancer is rare and different from other types of breast cancer. It is caused by obstructive cancer cells in the skins lymph vessels.
  • Paget disease of the breast, also known as Paget disease of the nipple. This cancer affects the skin of the nipple and areola .
  • Phyllodes tumors. These are rare, and most of these masses are not cancer. However, some are cancerous. These tumors begin in the breasts connective tissue, which is called the stroma.

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Things You Should Do Before Undergoing Breast Cancer Surgery

  • 1. Stay Calm

Its completely understandable to feel like your cancer diagnosis is a crisis that requires an urgent solution. Get the cancer out of me quickly, is a common request. However, you should resist the urge to treat cancer as an emergency. Having the cancer removed quickly may help your anxiety, but rushing to surgery will not improve your chances of surviving breast cancer or avoiding a recurrence. For the best possible outcome, it is essential that you learn about all of your treatment options to avoid making hasty decisions that might compromise your outcome. This sometimes means completing chemotherapy BEFORE surgery. It is completely safe to take a few weeks to figure out what approach is best for you and your cancer.

  • 2. Consider a Second Opinion

  • 3. Avoid extensive lymph node surgery

The treatment of the lymph nodes in breast cancer patients has evolved considerably in recent years. The main goal of this evolution has been to reduce the burden and complications of lymph node surgery, especially the complication of lymphedema or chronic arm swelling. While lymph nodes surgery remains an important component of breast cancer surgery, advancements in lymph node surgery have significantly reduced the extent of lymph node surgery as well as the side effects of the procedure.

  • 4. Ask if you should consider chemotherapy before surgery

  • 5. Ask about alternatives to traditional breast surgery and traditional breast radiation

Screening For Breast Cancer

Women aged between 50 and 74 are invited to access free screening mammograms every two years via the BreastScreen Australia Program.

Women aged 40-49 and 75 and over are also eligible to receive free mammograms, however they do not receive an invitation to attend.

It is recommended that women with a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer, aged between 40 and 49 or over 75 discuss options with their GP, or contact BreastScreen Australia on 13 20 50.

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Breast Cancer Surgery Options

Surgery is usually the first line of treatment for breast cancer unless the tumor is very large or has spread to other parts of the body, in which case chemotherapy may be needed first. The surgical options for breast cancer include breast-conserving surgery and mastectomy. Lumpectomy removes the tumor and some surrounding normal breast tissue, whereas mastectomy removes the entire breast. Which option is best depends on tumor size, breast size, and personal preference, as well as other aspects of the medical history. If mastectomy is performed, breast reconstruction can be done during the same surgery or at a later time.

During the lumpectomy or mastectomy, some of the lymph nodes in the armpit will likely be removed to determine if the cancer has spread . For early breast cancers, sentinel lymph node biopsy is a technique in which the lymph nodes that first drain the breast are identified and sampled. If cancer is not found in the “sentinel” nodes, no additional lymph nodes need to be removed. This has the advantage of faster recovery and less risk of lymphedema .

Dealing With Changes To Your Body

Breast Cancer, Medical Infographic. Diagnostics, Symptoms, Treat Stock ...

A diagnosis of breast cancer may change how you think about your body. All women react differently to the physical changes that happen as a result of breast cancer treatment.

Some women react positively, but others find it more difficult to cope. It’s important to give yourself time to come to terms with any changes to your body.

Want to know more?

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What Are The Stages Of Breast Cancer

There are two different staging systems for breast cancer. One is called anatomic staging while the other is prognostic staging. The anatomic staging is defined by the areas of the body where the breast cancer is found and helps to define appropriate treatment. The prognostic staging helps medical professionals communicate how likely a patient is to be cured of the cancer assuming that all appropriate treatment is given.

The anatomic staging system is as follows:

Stage 0 breast disease is when the disease is localized to the milk ducts .

Stage I breast cancer is smaller than 2 cm across and hasn’t spread anywhere including no involvement in the lymph nodes.

Stage II breast cancer is one of the following:

  • The tumor is less than 2 cm across but has spread to the underarm lymph nodes .
  • The tumor is between 2 and 5 cm .
  • The tumor is larger than 5 cm and has not spread to the lymph nodes under the arm .

Stage III breast cancer is also called “locally advanced breast cancer.” The tumor is any size with cancerous lymph nodes that adhere to one another or to surrounding tissue . Stage IIIB breast cancer is a tumor of any size that has spread to the skin, chest wall, or internal mammary lymph nodes .

Stage IV breast cancer is defined as a tumor, regardless of size, that has spread to areas away from the breast, such as bones, lungs, liver or brain.

Tips For Looking After Yourself

  • Stay active and exercise regularly if you can. The amount and type of exercise you do will depend on what you are used to and how well you feel.
  • A balanced and nutritious diet will help you to keep as well as possible and better cope with the cancer and treatment side effects.
  • Do as much as you can sometimes this may be less than you are used to.
  • Let your doctor know if you are having trouble sleeping.
  • If you are in pain, ask your doctor for help.
  • Seek practical and financial help if you need it.
  • Put your affairs in order. This doesn’t mean you are giving up. Everyone needs to do these things.

Remember, if you have any concerns or questions, please contact your doctor.

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Dont Try To Fix Things

Its a hard thing to do, sitting in someones pain with them, but thats what she needs from you right now. Its your natural instinct to want to make her feel better by saying things like, Youll be okay, or Youre so strong! You will beat this! or Youre only given what you can handle, or Just keep a positive attitude. Saying those things might make you feel better, but they wont make her feel better, because you dont really know that shell be okay. She is strong, but she doesnt really have a say in how this will turn out. She doesnt want to feel like its up to her to beat this. What she wants is for someone to sit with her in this uncertainty because its scaryand yes, its uncomfortable.

My niece is one of the only people who talked with me about the possibility of my death, and she was 7. No one else was willing to look death in the eye with me, but it was on my mind daily. Im not saying you need to have in-depth death talks, but be open to your friends feelings. Its okay if you dont know what to say as long as you are willing to truly listen. And trust me, she knows this is hard for you too, and she will appreciate your willingness to sit in it with her.

Some Practical Tips For The Wait

How to Cope with a Breast Cancer Diagnosis
  • Evaluate how you are spending your emotional energy and reduce optional stress.
  • Continue with your normal routine, including going to work.
  • Treat yourself to healthy food.
  • Go for a walk or continue to get exercise if you can.
  • Seek support from others who have been in similar situations.
  • Calm your mind with meditation, prayer, or thoughts that bring you a sense of peacefulness.

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Dealing With A Loved Ones Breast Cancer Diagnosis

A breast cancer diagnosis is never easy, but many people underestimate how challenging it is to deal with a loved ones diagnosis. If your loved one was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, you may feel overwhelmed by the road ahead.

While theres no perfect formula for dealing with breast cancer, we have a few expert tips on how to be the best support system, while also taking care of your own mental health, throughout your loved ones breast cancer treatment.

Wear Something That Makes You Feel Strong During Treatment

Within six months of being diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, LaTonya D., 50, tragically lost her sister to metastatic breast cancer and gained custody of her sister’s then-11-year-old son.

Then, while undergoing chemotherapy, LaTonyas hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes fell out. I did not want my reflection in the mirror to look like cancer or remind me of my mother and sister, she tells SELF.

So, before each chemo treatment, LaTonya had a mini-makeover at Sephora. She wore fake eyelashes and wigs to get her infusions. Sometimes LaTonya even showed up to chemo dressed up as Wonder Woman, filling the otherwise grueling time with fun and sunshine, she says. Dressing up in a way that reminded LaTonya of her strength and perseverance made it a bit easier to get through treatment for both herself and her nephew, she says.

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Ask Questions You Dont Want To Answer

You may find that sometimes you are pressed to answer questions about your cancer when you dont feel like it. To avoid this, you might want to ask a family member or friend to be your spokesperson. It can be emotionally exhausting to repeat the details of your illness to everyone whos concerned about you. Having a spokesperson keeps you from having to do this, but keeps loved ones up to date without wearing you out.

In some cases, your cancer illness may be big news in your community. Often, people are truly concerned but really dont know you very well. Of course, there are also people who are just curious.

Cancer is very personal and you need to be comfortable with how much you share with people who just want to know whats happening. You may have to think about ways to tell people that you dont want to talk about your personal business. In many cases, Thank you for asking, but Id rather not talk about it right now is enough to make people understand, but sometimes you may have to be more direct. Id prefer not to go into details or I dont want to get into my private health issues may be needed. Think about how you want to handle curious questions from people you dont know. Try to prepare a response that works for you.

One day a total stranger came up and asked what was wrong with me! I said Nothing a little chemo wont fix and turned away. I know I was rude, but it just got to be so annoying. Some days it was just too much to handle.Elle, age 62


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