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Once you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, you’ll probably meet with a number of cancer specialists — oncological surgeons, plastic surgeons, and oncologists, depending on your diagnosis. One important thing to keep in mind a this point: when you meet with your doctors after the biopsy, don’t go alone. You need to bring three things: • A trusted relative or friend—an extra set of ears can help you figure out your options and will help catch any details you miss. • A tape recorder so you can replay the session later. • A list of questions to ask your doctor. Below you’ll find a good starter list of questions to ask your doctor. Be sure to add your own before and during the appointment. 1. What kind of breast cancer do I have? How many tumors do I have, and how large are they? Read an overview of breast cancer . Read an overview of the types of breast cancer . 2. What stage cancer do I have? Has the cancer spread to my lymph nodes?
If your symptoms or test results seem to indicate that the breast cancer has come back or spread, your doctor may suggest a biopsy of the suspected cancerous tissue. You may need a biopsy to:
rule out other non-cancer causes of the problem
make a definite diagnosis of recurrent or metastatic breast cancer
figure out the current " personality " of the cancer (including hormone receptor status and HER2 status) so your doctors will know how best to treat it
When breast cancer comes back, it may not be exactly the same as the first time. For example, a cancer that was hormone-receptor-positive (ER+ or PR+) may come back as hormone-receptor-negative. HER2 testing may not have been done when the cancer was originally diagnosed. But now, it's important to have this test done because the results can affect treatment. Just as you needed to understand all the details of your original diagnosis, so you also need to know what you're dealing with now. This is the first step in knowing what treatme...
Sometimes, things do not go as we like and breast cancer returns in a different site from the breast - a metastatic site. It's what patients all fear with each little ache and pain, and what your oncologist looks for at each follow up visit. Less common these days is the patient who presents with metastatic disease at the outset - this can be seen with a very aggressive breast cancer, or with a patient who sometimes delays seeking treatment for a primary tumor which has time to develop overt metastases.
Sadly, metastatic breast cancer remains incurable and while some progress has been made we have a lot more room to go.
The identification of HER2 as a therapeutic target and the development of Herceptin - a targeted therapy against HER2 positive breast cancer - has probably been the greatest contribution to metastatic disease in the past ten years.
Metastatic breast cancer can recur in any organ, but most commonly returns in the bone, lung or liver. The "bone on...
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