Education Resources

Diagnosed with Breast Cancer: Now What?

A breast cancer diagnosis can leave you feeling emotional, overwhelmed, and of course, full of questions. We’d like to help you address some of the questions head-on so you can be prepared for your first oncology appointment with Affiliated Oncologists. We hope this guide will make your journey through breast cancer treatment a bit smoother.

What Kind of Doctor Should I See for Breast Cancer?

After a breast cancer diagnosis, you will begin working with an oncologist rather than a PCP (primary care physician) or gynecologist. Oncology is the study of cancer; therefore, an oncologist is a doctor who is medically trained to lead the care for patients after a cancer diagnosis. As a patient of Affiliated Oncologists, you will have access to our breast cancer specialists in Chicago Ridge, Mokena, and Hazel Crest.

Your oncologist will take time to learn about your specific diagnosis and will consult with your care team and you to develop a personalized treatment plan. Your care team will include several specialists, including:

  • Medical oncologist
  • Breast cancer surgeon with a specialty in oncoplastics
  • Radiation oncologist
  • Plastic surgeon, if needed
  • Cancer care specialists who can assist with treating side effects caused by breast cancer treatments

Surgery may seem like a logical first step; however, some patients can benefit from a different approach. Visiting with a medical oncologist first will help determine the best treatment for your specific diagnosis.

find an oncologist in the south chicago area

Understanding Breast Cancer

What Type of Breast Cancer Do I Have?

Breast cancer can begin in different areas of the breast. Some genes, and the proteins they make, play a role in how breast cancer behaves and how it might respond to treatment. Your HER2 status and hormone receptors will be used by your oncology team to determine your breast cancer type and the type of treatment you may receive.

Breast Cancer Types

What is the Extent of My Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer stages are typically expressed as a number on a scale of 0 through IV, with stage 0 representing contained, non-invasive cancers and stage IV representing cancers that have spread. The results of the biopsy and images taken will allow your oncologist to determine the extent of your breast cancer.

Staging

Which Breast Cancer Treatments Will I Receive?

Breast cancer treatments have become more advanced in the past decade. You and your oncologist will work together to decide on the best breast cancer treatment plan for you. Treatment options can include surgery, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy. Clinical trials and reconstructive surgery may also be part of treatment depending on each patient's unique situation.

What are the Treatment Options for Breast Cancer?

Your breast cancer oncologist will walk you through the treatment options, hormone receptors that are present, the stage of the cancer, and other factors.

You and your oncologist at Affiliated Oncologists in the South Chicago area will work together to create the best personalized breast cancer treatment plan.

What About Breast Cancer Clinical Trials?

Affiliated Oncologists provide patients in the South Chicago area access to the latest clinical trials in several convenient locations. These breast cancer clinical trials help uncover various new treatment options and give many patients the opportunity to receive newly developed therapies or investigational drugs not yet available outside the study. Find out if you are right for one of our available breast cancer trials.

Preparing for the First Oncology Appointment

At your first oncology appointment, you are going to get a lot of information in a short period of time. Support is important during your cancer journey, which is why we highly recommend that you take a relative or friend with you to your first appointment. They can be there to provide emotional support as well as listen and help take notes on all the information you will be discussing.

Here are some useful tips on how you can remember what you're told and keep track of questions you'd like to ask your breast cancer specialist.

Keep a Notebook

To help stay organized, we suggest having a notebook to keep a record of important details. This can include notes on how you’re feeling and what medicines or supplements you’re taking. You should also write down any questions, thoughts, or observations you think of between appointments. Do your best to put a date so you can keep your thoughts and notes organized.

If you prefer something other than pen and paper, consider audio recordings taken with your phone. Whatever method suits you best is fine—just pick one method and commit to using it regularly. Having well-documented information (and on hand) is one of the best ways to keep the lines of communication open between you and your doctors.

Questions to Ask Your Specialist

  • Is my breast cancer hormone-positive? How does this impact my treatment?
  • Should I change any current lifestyle choices (diet, exercise, rest, stress level)?
  • How often will I need to come to the cancer center for treatments?
  • Will surgery come before or after other treatments are given?
  • What can I do to prepare myself for breast cancer surgery?
  • Is there any suspected lymph node involvement?
  • How soon do I have to make a decision regarding treatment?
  • How should I prepare for breast reconstruction?
  • Do I have any genetic mutations that could affect other family members?

After Breast Cancer Treatment

Your oncologist will want to monitor you closely once you have completed breast cancer treatment. Therefore, it is very important to go to all of your follow-up appointments. During these visits, your doctor will address your questions and concerns, ask about side effects related to treatment, and discuss other follow-up treatments that may be necessary, such as hormone therapy or reconstructive surgery.

Should I Get a Cancer Diagnosis Second Opinion?

You should feel confident about your breast cancer diagnosis. This is why many patients choose to get a second opinion before beginning a specific treatment plan. At Affiliated Oncologists, our physicians provide second opinions on both breast cancer diagnosis and treatment options. Many insurance companies will cover a second opinion assessment. It is important to contact your insurance provider for verification of coverage for second opinion appointments.

You are Not Alone in Your Breast Cancer Journey

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a type of breast cancer and are seeking treatment in the South Chicago suburbs, the physicians and staff at Affiliated Oncologists are here to support you every step of the way. We provide our patients with the latest breast cancer treatments and helpful resources, including a binder with more helpful tips and what to expect during the cancer journey.

Our oncologists specialize in breast cancer care and are ready to talk to you about your diagnosis and personalized treatment options. Our breast cancer centers are located throughout South Chicago, including Chicago Ridge, Mokena, Hazel Crest, Palos Heights, and Oak Lawn.