Making Hard Decisions about Breast Cancer

October 30, 2017

Receiving a cancer diagnosis is never easy, but it becomes even more complicated when you feel pressured to make a quick decision about your treatment. The internet is teeming with so many breast cancer treatment options, studies, and opinions that it’s hard to determine what is best for you.

In 2010, the Cancer Support Community surveyed 840 women in the United States with breast cancer. Between their experiences, insight from our partners: Bright Pink, FORCE, Living Beyond Breast Cancer, and the Young Survival Coalition; and professional guidance from medical, oncology, plastic surgery, and psycho-oncology experts, CSC compiled a spotlight brochure compiling information about breast construction to help patients empower themselves through knowledge.

This brochure talks about…

Taking ownership of your diagnosis

As scary as it is, this is your journey. Learn to speak up for yourself. Become comfortable asking friends and family for help when you need it, especially because they likely want to do whatever they can to help you through this experience.  Do not be afraid to talk to your healthcare team about any questions or worries you may have, but know that in the end this is your body and your decision.

Try to relax as much as possible. Creating a “new normal” around your cancer diagnosis will make you feel like you have more control over your situation. Incorporate calming activities like yoga, walking or meditation into your day to reduce anxiety and stress, and don’t dwell on the big picture. Take everything one step at a time.

Managing the decision-making process

Facing decisions like undergoing a mastectomy or deciding whether or not to receive a breast reconstruction are some of the most difficult choices a patient will make.

The good thing is that there are questions that will help guide that process. CSC proposes and defines different treatment options and provides a guide of considerations when making that decision.

Consider things like how the loss of a breast affect the way you view your body but personally and sexually, the potential scarring, the recovery process, the need for future surgery and the overall look and feel of the absence of a breast or the addition of a new one.

Patients can find the full checklist on Pages 6 – 19 of the information guide, followed by chapters outlining the processes associated with choosing to and choosing not to go through reconstruction.

What to expect and staying comfortable after reconstruction:

Wear clothes that are easy to take on and off like button-down shirts and pajamas, as well as slip-on shoes with a rubber sole that will be more comfortable. Bring extra pillows for comfort and anti-stretch cream like shea or coco butter for dry skin.

One patient said that exercise like swimming and yoga helped her regain movement in her arm and aided her overall recovery.

It also covers what to expect during and after surgery so patients can emotionally prepare for the procedure ahead of time.

Finding a new normal

Losing a breast difficult physically and emotionally, but finding a new normal will help overcome those feelings of loss. This information guide offers a list of organizations that offer support groups, counseling and information that can help women start to heal.

To read the full guide, visit this Living with Cancer spotlight topic on the Cancer Support Community website.