The diagnostic phase is one of the most difficult times of the breast cancer experience. While still dealing with the shock of the diagnosis, you will hear many new medical terms and will need to make decisions during a time when you might be feeling very vulnerable.

You may have appointments with a variety of specialists, such as surgeons, medical oncologists and radiation oncologists. Finding your way through the maze of tests, appointments, doctors, nurses and medical terms can be challenging. It can be helpful to bring a trusted friend or family member with you when you go to your appointments for support and to help you record information.

Waiting is inevitable

Be prepared to do a lot of waiting. You will wait for doctor’s appointments, test results, and referrals from one doctor to another. There is stress and anxiety associated with waiting – it can be difficult but unfortunately, it is unavoidable. It may help to remember that the information being gathered will help to define the nature of your breast cancer and allow your doctors to determine the best course of treatment for you.

Being diagnosed with breast cancer often leads to feelings of anxiety and loss of control. Being well informed about your diagnosis and treatment options may offer some reassurance and a regained sense of control of at least some parts of the journey. Being prepared for what happens next can help to address the uncertainty you might experience.

Avoid information overload

After dealing with the shock of your diagnosis, it may be difficult to determine what information you need. It is also sometimes difficult to recognize how much will be enough for you to make the decisions you might be facing. Too much information can be paralyzing. You need only learn enough to give you a basic understanding of your cancer and treatment options.

Your medical team will answer any questions that arise throughout the process. It is important to remember that you can, and should, ask questions at any time. The Canadian Cancer Society can also help you find current and credible information that is relevant to your situation.

The importance of self-advocacy

During your cancer experience you will meet with many health professionals and support people. The Canadian cancer care system is increasingly complex. Often, there may not be a dedicated member of your health care team to help you to manage your care from diagnosis through treatment and beyond.

As a result, you may find that you must advocate for yourself and take an active role in the coordination of your care. This is what is referred to as self-advocacy: taking an active role in your treatment to make sure you get the support and care you need. It’s about asking questions and getting answers. You may also want to ask a trusted family member or friend to work with you or act on your behalf.

Links to more information

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Guide for the Newly Diagnosed
Living Beyond Breast Cancer

Managing Your Medical Records