You Have Breast Cancer, Now What?

Nine-time Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova announced Wednesday she is battling breast cancer. The tennis great, who was diagnosed with a noninvasive cancer called ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS, joins scores of other women and men who have been dealt the same life-changing news.

As a breast surgeon, telling a patient they have cancer is one of my least favorite things about my job, because in an instant, their life is spun into chaos. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed and scared. I’m going to take you through some of the things you should expect in the early days after being diagnosed because I know it is very difficult to absorb all the vital information you will need.

Sense of Shock

As soon as I say the words “You have cancer,” the patient’s questions start flowing.
What are the next steps? What did I do wrong? Why is this happening to me? Are you sure? As a patient, it is difficult to really hear what your doctor is saying about your diagnosis because you will be in shock. If you’re expecting biopsy results or seeing a specialist, be sure to take someone with you to help digest and absorb all of this important information.

Additional Testing

After you are initially diagnosed, doctors will want to do more tests to find out the severity of the disease. They will also want to find out if it has spread to other places in your body. I know you may feel like you are constantly being poked and prodded but this step is essential to figuring out the best course of treatment.

Meeting With Specialists

You may need to meet with several specialists including:

— Surgeon: Will surgically remove your disease. The surgeon is usually the first doctor you will see and then will continue to follow you even after all of your treatments;

— Medical Oncologist: Determines if you need to have chemotherapy or other potential treatments;

— Radiologist: Will find out how far along your disease is through X-rays, CAT scans and MRIs;

— Radiation Oncologist: Determines if you will need radiation treatment;

— Genetic Counselor: This person will check to see if your cancer was caused by genetic or family history. He/she will also access your risk for reoccurrence and if there is a reason to check family members for the disease.

For follow up visits, you may want to keep a journal. This is helpful for keeping notes organized and writing down questions you may have before your next visit. Your doctor may also advise that you see a councilor, psychologist or psychiatrist to help you come to grips with your new diagnosis. I suggest taking this help. It is very difficult to tackle cancer without a support system.

Dr. Cynara Coomer is an assistant professor of surgery specializing in breast health and breast cancer surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. She is a FOX News Health contributor providing medical expertise on a variety of topics in cancer research with a focus on women’s health, breast diseases and tips for healthy breasts at any age. If you have a question email her at