What if Cancer is Found?

Hearing that she has cancer is something that every woman fears.  It’s a time of worry and a time of great emotion. That’s why we have put together this list of things you should consider doing if you are diagnosed with breast cancer:

Get specifics on your diagnosis and treatment.

To maximize your time with your doctor, write down any questions you might have and bring them with you to your appointments.  Keeping your questions and answers in a notebook, along with test results and other information can be very helpful.  In addition, learning as much as you can about your diagnosis and treatment ultimately means that you are able to make informed decisions about your care. 

Spend time choosing your doctor.

Breast cancer specialists who work at dedicated cancer centers offer specific expertise as well as access to the latest treatments that are part of clinical studies. Take the time to talk to different physicians about their philosophy of care and what you can expect as his or her patient so that you can find the right doctor for you.  

St. Vincent Frontier Cancer Center physicians will identify and individualized treatment plan for your specific situation.  This plan may include medical, surgical and other comprehensive options for treatment of breast cancer.

Get the support you need for talking about your diagnosis.

Breaking the news of your breast cancer diagnosis to family and friends can be just as difficult as first hearing the news yourself from your doctor. It can also be uncomfortable to ask for help, answer questions about how you're doing or just admit you need some time and space for yourself.  Your St. Vincent Healthcare physician will be happy to provide information regarding support groups and other resources in your area. 

Seek help in navigating financial issues, if necessary.

Thinking about finances is the last thing you want to worry about during your care and treatment.  At St. Vincent Healthcare, we work with every patient to answer questions, offer suggestions and address concerns. We help you manage financial issues and deal with private insurance companies as well as Medicare and Medicaid. Learn more about our Financial Assistance Policy.

Focus on good nutrition.

Cancer treatments may alter your ability to taste and smell and even your digestion. Eating smaller amounts of food more frequently can help improve energy levels and lessen nausea when compared to eating three larger meals each day. 

Find time to exercise.

Regular walks and other gentle exercises can help offset the mental and physical effects of treatment. After treatment is completed, increasing your exercise gradually will also help reduce your fatigue and rebuild muscle tone. If you have difficulty exercising or aren't sure what exercises are best for you, your doctor can refer you to a physical therapist who can help. 

Talk with your doctor about coping with menopause symptoms.

Breast cancer patients who have undergone chemotherapy, removal of an ovary, or who have had to discontinue hormone replacement therapy upon diagnosis of breast cancer may experience symptoms of menopause. Talk to your doctor about how to safely minimize menopausal symptoms.

Take steps to prevent lymphedema.

Lymphedema is a blockage of the lymph vessels that drain fluid from tissues, and can be a side effect of breast cancer treatments.  The predominant symptom is swelling in your arm, hand or chest which can cause discomfort or numbness. It isn't life threatening, but can cause discomfort and should be treated early to avoid more painful symptoms as well as the risk of infection.

There's no reliable way to assess your risk for lymphedema but by taking proper precautions you can greatly reduce your chances of developing the condition. Physical therapy can help to prevent symptoms and can help relieve the effects of lymphedema if it does occur. Ask your doctor for more information.

Bone health.

Keeping your bones healthy throughout your life is important; however, if you're woman who's been diagnosed with breast cancer, bone health is especially important. Talk with your healthcare team about specific recommendations for keeping bones healthy, such as taking calcium and vitamin D and appropriate weight-bearing exercises to help keep bones strong. 

Treatment and work.

Some people are able to work throughout their cancer treatment. You may want to talk with your employer about options such as flextime, job sharing or working from home. Options like these may help your mind and body ease back into the demands of your job.