In 2020 more than two lakh women were diagnosed with breast cancer in India. In the same year, more than 76000 deaths were due to this condition. A woman's life completely transforms forever when she hears the word, “You have got cancer." The initial emotional reaction can be shock or denial. The first question that comes to mind is," Am I going to die." When something of that magnitude comes up, we often lose the sanity to deal with it. In our minds, we lose the battle even before it begins. In this panic situation, sometimes we choose the wrong course of action or leave things as it is. We are not only afraid of the treatment but also of what is coming during and after the treatment. What will be the side effects of the treatment? How will I look without my breast? How many years would I live?
These are some of the doubts which come to mind.
What should I do?
What Should You Do? At Medanta Group of hospitals, we encounter many patients with breast cancer at different stages. We see them often confused, not knowing what to do. Most of these women need time to cope with the news. We have seen many patients overwhelmed with the deluge of information available online and the so-called best choices for them. It is not uncommon for a person to feel bombarded with all the facts, figures, and statistics, making it difficult to make the right choice. These choices may impact the rest of your life.
The most important thing for a patient now is to maximize the odds of beating breast cancer.
Let's discuss how we can achieve this.
Education is the beginning!
As per many cancer survivors and cancer specialists, education is the most critical element of your fight against breast cancer.
That means learning all you can about the specifics of your cancer and how to best treat it. For breast cancer, it is essential as treatment varies a lot with stage. But be wary about wasting too much time and energy on researching. Since the patients themselves can't be the subject matter experts, they should ask their doctors for recommendations for the best information sources.
Seeking information should not cause discomfort.
Some of us like to read or know about new things, while others are uncomfortable doing research. Some others don't want to know so many specifics of the condition. According to many cancer specialists, many patients do not want to have every detail. They want to understand the bigger picture. You need to know how much information you can process before you discuss the treatment plan with your doctor. You can ask your tech-savvy friends or family members to do the research. You can know more details during the treatment.
You can write down all the questions on paper before meeting your doctor. Some websites, such as the American Cancer Society, give a long list of potential questions you can ask your oncologist. Remember not to seek answers from someone who is not an expert in the subject. Wrong advice at this point can cause problems in the future.
Trust your friends and families.
Cancer specialists believe it is always beneficial for a patient to bring someone along during an appointment with the doctor. This companion is a support during the therapy and will be another set of ears regarding precautions and medications. It is good if the companion is emotionally strong and can take the doctor's advice positively and guide the patient to the right course of treatment. The companion can also take notes of the doctor's advice during the appointment.
Don't lose hope. Everything is going to be fine.
Getting news of cancer is like a shock. The patients are often reluctant to share their feelings. They are upset. These patients consciously or subconsciously may feel that their doctors or family members will abandon them. But you should be open about your feelings. Everyone is vulnerable in this world, and there is nothing wrong with sharing your feelings. It is also not a good idea to accept everything your doctor says as a god's order. You can always take a second or even third opinion of the treatment. If your healthcare provider is dismissing your concerns or is difficult to communicate with, or tells you, no need to worry about anything and you feel otherwise, you may seek another opinion.
Take support from other patients.
Who can give the right advice? The best person can be the one who has endured these sufferings. You can join a support group. It is always beneficial to talk to the survivors and learn from their experiences. If you are fighting it alone, you may feel alone.
The Internet is a great learning tool. But it is full of details that can scare you to the core. Sometimes it can give misleading facts, data, and statistics. If you are talking to someone who has survived this condition, his journey can provide hope and courage, the much-needed assets.
It is not easy to deal with breast cancer. It can break you emotionally, physically, and financially. There is a lot of literature available on how to prevent breast cancer. But when it comes to the path one should take after the diagnosis, most of us are clueless. We need to take the right decisions. If something goes wrong, it may have lifetime implications. This fight against cancer starts with getting an education. Your doctor may be your torchbearer in this journey. If you feel something is wrong with the treatment, go for a second opinion. Join a support group. You can always benefit from the journey of people who have experienced it. Lastly, be open about how you feel. There is nothing wrong if feeling helpless. Sharing your feelings with others makes you light and more focused during this journey.
Remember, breast cancer is not an end. You can fight it and defeat it.