Breast Cancer: After the life-changing news hits, where to turn and what to do

Tuesday, September 29, 2020
(Courtesy: Northwell Health)
Courtesy: Northwell Health

NEW YORK -- They're the three words no one ever wants to hear: "You have cancer." And for one in eight American women, according to the American Cancer Society, these words will be the ones to let them know they have breast cancer. But where does that journey start, and once you've received life changing news like a breast cancer diagnosis, where do you go?

For many women, breast cancer has already made its way into their families: their mothers have had it, their sisters, or their grandmothers. And when a close family member receives that diagnosis it might make you wonder, Will I be next? That's where genetic testing for mutations such as the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes comes in. In one family, a mother and her two daughters all tested positive for the BRCA mutation.

And whether or not you and your doctor decide genetic testing makes sense for you, if you or your annual mammogram find something in your breasts that causes concern, a likely next step will be to get a closer look with tests like biopsies. Here, one breast cancer survivor recalls her own experience with core needle biopsy, and how it paved the way for her to get ahead of her disease. If you find yourself down this path and hearing those three words, the road ahead might seem daunting - you might ask yourself, Why me? For one woman, breast cancer came out of nowhere, but in being faced with losing her breasts and undergoing months of treatment she found something: a greater purpose in her diagnosis.

But who's to say whether there's a right - or wrong - way to fight cancer, or to think about it when it's waging war on your own body? What is important though, is putting up your best fight and being your own advocate. That's why it's critical for women facing a fight against breast cancer to stay up-to-date on the latest advances in radiation therapy, and to choose the right reconstruction option for them - especially if treatment involves mastectomy. It's these things that let you take control over your diagnosis - and your treatment - and help you on your way to rebuilding your life.

No matter what your diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment plan looks like, there's one fact that will remain: this fight is hard. Remember, it's okay to feel mad, or sad, or lonely, and it's also okay to lean on those around you to support and hold you up when you don't think you can. After all, you're the one fighting for your life. You're putting everything you have into making it to the next day, and to a day when you can take back those three words and make them your own, "I beat cancer!"