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Just Diagnosed with Cancer? Chat with Experts

The First 48 Hours

You've just been diagnosed with breast cancer. Now what? Expert Patient Beth Brophy explains what you need to know.

By Beth Brophy

If you’ve just learned that you have breast cancer, you may be encountering some of the most anxious moments of your life. Although research has come a long way over the past decade in developing extremely effective treatments, the "C" word is still a terrifying one to add to your vocabulary—especially if you’re referring to your own health. At this point, your imagination is probably running wild with fears of what is going on inside your body, and the measures necessary to fix it.

Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation—naturally, they’re hard words to stomach.

The most important thing at this point is to try to stop the thoughts racing through your head and, as calmly as you can, focus on the significant challenge ahead of you. There’s a wealth of information on this site to help you plan your best course of action over the next few days. Below you’ll find a step-by-step guide to what you should know—and do—after a breast cancer diagnosis.

1. You’ve found a lump.

Maybe you’ve just found a lump, or you’re waiting for the results of a diagnostic test, or you’re anticipating a biopsy. You’re scared. While you’re waiting for your test results, don’t worry yourself unnecessarily by overloading on breast cancer information. But if you’re the kind of person who finds it reduces your anxiety to read as much as you can, My Breast Cancer Network is here to help. Click here for a full overview of breast cancer, diagnosis and treatments.

Before you go on, take a deep breath, and consider this comforting statistic: 80 percent of breast lumps are benign. Your doctor may prescribe follow-up tests, starting with the least invasive, such as diagnostic mammograms and ultrasound, and proceed to more invasive needle or surgical biopsies. Click here to learn about the procedures used to diagnose breast cancer.

2. You’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer.

The news that you have a life-threatening disease is overwhelming. What’s more, over the next few stressful months you’ll find yourself feeling like you are taking a crash course in medical school as you figure out what menu of treatment choices best suits you and your individual cancer. Breast cancer is not one disease--every tumor is different and your treatment options are many. Your team of doctors will advise you on the best plan of action, but remember, the final decisions are up to you.

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