7 Things to Do After a Breast Cancer Diagnosis

A breast cancer diagnosis is one of the most terrifying moments of any woman's life. From the moment the doctor says, "It's cancer," everything changes.

I live in fear of that day having watched my own mom go through it. At 12, she told me a lump was malignant, and in that moment, all of our lives became completely different. At the time, I was too young to understand all that she had to do. But now, with 20 years of experience, I have a better handle on what someone has to do after they hear those devastating words.

I spoke with dozens of women who have had breast cancer and gathered 7 things a woman should do after she gets a diagnosis:

  1. Cry: This could also be scream, rage, pound pillows, laugh, or sob. A woman who gets a diagnosis like this needs to express herself emotionally and doesn't need to be told "stay positive" or "be grateful" or "God doesn't give us more than we can handle" or any number of clueless things well-meaning friends tell us. Sometimes we just need to wallow for a little while. But not for long.
  2. Find a good surgeon: Ask your doctor for a good surgical oncologist. More than 50 percent of new breast cancer patients go with their doctor's referral, says Leslie Montgomery, MD, chief of the division of breast surgery at Montefiore-Einstein Center for Cancer Care in the Bronx, New York.
  3. Get a second opinion: Set a course of action with one doctor and then find another one as well. The other 50 percent find their own doctor because of his or her reputation, because of the hospital he or she practices out of, or for any other reason.
  4. Write everything down: Start a log of timetables of doctors' names and info about the treatment. So often, your memory of the specific facts gets clouded with emotion. Write it all down, especially dates of first biopsies and so on. This will help you when making appointments and following up. If you can't remember something, call the doctor and the nurse and they could tell you the info again.
  5. Find a friend: Whether it's your husband, mother, daughter, or best friend, find a person who will be supportive, consistent, and helpful throughout your treatment.
  6. Figure out your insurance: Call your company and have them walk you through everything, what they pay, what they don't, and how to make sure they do. You don't want surprises here.
  7. Explore treatment options: You don't have to do exactly what your doctor tells you to do. If you're easily overwhelmed, maybe keep it simple, but there are alternative treatments and dietary changes and all different ways to attack breast cancer from the inside. There is no one perfect treatment plan for all women.

Have you been diagnosed with breast cancer? What was the first thing you did?


Image via audreyjm529/Flickr

breasts, cancer


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Peajewel Peajewel

I have never been diagnosed with breast cancer but I have a sister that was.  She did all of those things and she loves her doctor.  She still goes back to the same doctor for her yearly check up and has made me go to her as well. 

Kayla... KaylaMillar

I've never been diagnosed with any type of cancer.  I know a couple people that have been though.  Its such a sad thing!

bills... billsfan1104

I might add on that when you go to see your oncologist for the first time, take a family member or a friend. that way they can ask questions that you might forget about. I had my grandmothers friend come with me and it was a big relief, because I was such in a fog, and I am also known not to ask questions, and just go with the flow.

Angel... Angellinda

 I waited an Entire weekend & up to 3:17pm that Monday to get the phone Call. You have Triple Negative Breast Cancer!! !My life forever changed!!  2 3/4 years ago my DH lost his job & our insurance! Both DD's lost their Jobs! So I got their Love & support! My own Bio mom Died from Breast Cancer when I was 19 & pregnant! She lived to be 46. I was 49 when I found out! I live in pain from head to toe.. This fear is Awful.. Try  doing this without money, a decent car, gas, decent food & safe Water Etc..  but  when I was featured on the front page of the paper. People wrote & sent me cards of Care! Those words of care & cards helped! Some had even $5.00 or $10.00 or more to Help.. The kindness of a small Family, a couple Friends & Strangers that barely new  me. But I sent them cards & touched their lives prior to this!! We need prevention & The Cure!! Chemo & radiation so ruins your body and is so disabling! So is being unable to afford good care, complementary help with massages, treatments, a good nutritional diet Etc.Like when you get mouth sores from Chemo. You pee' Red from  the Red Death Chemo.  Everything tastes Terrible & burns if you swallow food or water. . Its life changing & robbing. When you feel like Walking Dead... But are considered a Survivor! I've been in 3 Cancer walks! I hope to one day regain any Quality of Life!pink ribbon

allie... alliesmom112

I have never been diagnosed with cancer but my prayers go out to the ones who have

MomX3... MomX3ThatsMe

I have never been diagnosed with any kind of cancer.

These are good tips, though.

jessi... jessicasmom1

I have never been diagnoses with any kind of cancer But, it does run hard in my family.. Thanks for sharing.

Bmat Bmat

Yes. The first thing I did was to cry. Lots. 

Krist... KristinRox

I have never been diagnosed with breast cancer and I hope that I never am. I believe that I would burst into tears, and id be a ball of sadness for the first couple of days.

Chari... Charizma77

good post. I have never been dx and hope I wont be but if I am I hope I remember these tips

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