Getting Diagnosed with Breast Cancer – Now What?

If you've been diagnosed with breast cancer, you've probably heard various terms to describe your disease. Doctors use information from your breast biopsy to learn a lot about the specific type of cancer you have. You may also require additional tests to determine the stage of cancer and how quickly it is growing. By learning about your cancer and its treatment and asking questions, you can play an active role in your breast cancer care.

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer is a disease in which the cells in the breast proliferate uncontrollably. There are various types of breast cancer. The type of breast cancer is determined by which cells in the breast develop into cancer. Breast cancer can start in any part of the breast. A breast is composed of three major components: lobules, ducts, and connective tissue. The lobules are the milk-producing glands, the ducts are tubes that carry milk to the nipple and the connective tissue (fibrous and fatty tissue) surrounds and holds everything together. The majority of breast cancers start in the ducts or lobules which means that breast cancer can spread outside of the breast via blood and lymph vessels.

Female Breast Anatomy

The different kinds of breast cancer

There are numerous types of breast cancer and many ways to describe them. It's easy to become confused by all the information being circulated. The specific cells in the breast that become cancer determine the type of breast cancer, here are the different types and how they are formed.

  • Ductal carcinoma in situ or DCIS or in situ breast cancer is a pre-cancer that starts in a milk duct and has not grown into the rest of the breast tissue.
  • Invasive breast cancer is invasive (or infiltrating) that has spread into the surrounding breast tissue. Invasive ductal carcinoma and invasive lobular carcinoma are the most common types. Invasive ductal carcinoma accounts for roughly 70-80% of all breast cancers.
  • Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is an aggressive type of invasive breast cancer in which cancer cells block lymph vessels in the skin, causing the breast to look "inflamed."
  • Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is an aggressive form of invasive breast cancer in which the cancer cells lack oestrogen or progesterone receptors (ER or PR) and produce little or no HER2. (All three tests show that the cells are "negative.")


What to do after a breast cancer diagnosis

A breast cancer diagnosis can be stressful. And just as you're attempting to cope with the shock and anxiety about your future, you're asked to make critical treatment decisions. Here are 5 steps to help you navigate your journey:

1. Meet the members of your breast cancer treatment team

    Individuals with breast cancer are cared for by a team of medical professionals, each with their own area of expertise. This is referred to as a multidisciplinary team (MDT). A multidisciplinary team meeting will be held regularly to discuss your care. They will consist of a:
  • Breast care nurse – a nurse who provides information and support to breast cancer patients
  • Breast care nurse – a nurse who provides information and support to breast cancer patients
  • Chemotherapy nurse – trained to administer chemotherapy medication
  • Clinical oncologist – a physician who specializes in diagnosing and treating cancer with radiotherapy alone or in combination with cancer drugs
  • Medical oncologist – a doctor who specialises in cancer drugs/li>
  • Pathologist – a medical professional who examines tissue and cells removed during a biopsy or surgery
  • Radiologist – a physician who specialises in the diagnosis and treatment of disease using x-rays, ultrasound, and scans
  • Research nurse – who can discuss the option of taking part in clinical trials
  • Surgeon
  • Therapeutic radiographer – trained to give radiotherapy

2.Gather a list of questions to ask your oncologist

    You'll most likely have some questions, and you should feel free to ask for as much information as you require. Anything you don't understand will be explained to you by your treatment team. Some possible questions are listed below.


  • What type of breast cancer do I have?
  • • What stage is the cancer and where is it?
  • Has my breast cancer spread?
  • How treatable is my breast cancer?
  • Medical oncologist – a doctor who specialises in cancer drugs
  • How soon should I begin treatment?
  • Why is this the best treatment for me?
  • Are there any other options?
  • Are there any clinical trials I can take part in?
  • Where will I need to go for treatment?
  • How long will my treatment take?
  • What are the possible side effects?
  • How will the treatment affect my everyday life?
  • Will the treatment affect my fertility?
  • What is my prognosis?

3. Gather your support team
It is beneficial for your support team to be aware of what to expect. By having these conversations with your friends and family early on, you will gain a better understanding of where people can assist you and where you may still require assistance. It's also beneficial to your support team because they'll be less prone to surprises. Which friends and family members will be by your side throughout your diagnosis, treatment, and beyond? Who will drive you to your doctor's appointments? When you're feeling down, who do you call? Who can look after your children or assist you with preparing meals?

4. Confirm your treatment plan and next steps
There are numerous ways to treat breast cancer, whether through surgery, therapy, or a combination of the two. That is why your treatment specialists are there to collaborate with you - to ensure that they are developing a treatment plan that is appropriate for your situation. Once you and your care team have decided on an initial treatment plan, your nurse navigator will assist you in coordinating your next steps and, if necessary, additional resources. If you have any further questions, concerns, or simply need some extra looking after, you'll find all the help you need.