Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women in the United States. American Cancer Society estimates that 281,550 women with be newly diagnosed with breast cancer in 2021. These women will face the difficult phase of receiving the diagnosis after The removal and examination of tissue from a living body to discover the presence, cause, or extent of a disease., followed by the bewildering process of understanding the diagnosis and various treatment options. Breast cancer treatment often involves a team of specialists in different fields, which may include a surgeon, a medical A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer., a A physician who specializes in the treatment of cancer using high energy x-rays. A radiologist, by contrast, is expert in the diagnosis of diseases through the use of x-rays., a radiologist, and a Inherited characteristics. counselor.
Typically, patients have consultation with a surgeon after a biopsy yields a breast cancer diagnosis. The surgeon decides whether the patient should go for upfront surgery or receive any pre-surgical medications, also known as Utilizing drugs, radiation therapy, or other means of supplemental treatment before cancer surgery or other primary cancer treatment. A treatment like chemotherapy or hormonal therapy that affects the whole body or system, as opposed to localized treatment, such as surgery or radiation.. Several different factors are taken into consideration when deciding the right treatment course: size of the A mass of cells that can be benign or malignant., status of the Related to the armpit. Small, bean-shaped collections of immune tissue that filter out cell fluid and bacteria that may be circulating in the body. They help fight infections and play a role in fighting cancer., molecular subtype decided by A female sex hormone that is primarily produced by the ovaries. Its primary function is to regulate the menstrual cycle and assist in the production of secondary sex characteristics such as breasts. It may even play a role in the production of cancer cells in the breast tissue. receptor, A hormone that stimulates the uterus to prepare for pregnancy, produced mainly by the ovaries. Progesterone may play a role in certain breast cancers. receptor, and Her-2neu receptor, tumor size to breast size ratio, presence of genetic mutation, and patient’s overall general health status.
It is important to remember that not every breast cancer patient will receive the same treatment. Some patients may have different options of surgery, while others may not have a choice. For example, some women are eligible for breast conserving surgery (BCS) or Surgical removal of the breast lump and its surrounding tissue.. These women may ultimately undergo BCS, but in some cases may pursue An operation removing all or part of the breast. for various other reasons. Some women unfortunately do not have a choice due to the distribution of disease seen on diagnostic testing and will be recommended mastectomy. The type of medication needed also varies depending on the tumor. While some patients need Treatment with drugs to destroy or slow down the growth of cancer cells. Often referred to as systematic treatment, because it acts throughout the body, as opposed to localized treatments, like surgery or radiation., many breast cancer patients do not receive chemotherapy, especially those with favorable molecular subtype.
Patients who undergo mastectomy are often eligible for reconstruction, which can be performed as immediate reconstruction or delayed reconstruction. Depending on the stage of the breast cancer, either may be recommended by the plastic surgeon. Some women who are eligible for lumpectomy but require removal of significant portion of breast can also involve plastic surgeon for oncoplastic closure for optimal cosmetic result. New York State mandates that all hospitals that provides mastectomy surgery, lymph node dissection, or a lumpectomy provide information to the patient concerning the option of reconstructive surgery, and that health insurance policies pay for the reconstruction.
It can be overwhelming to process all of the information from consultations and make decisions. Patients may not understand fully all the options are available to them but feel pressured to make quick decisions due to the cancer diagnosis. The authors of an article titled “How Well Informed Do Patients Feel about Their Breast Cancer Surgery Options? Findings from a Nationwide Survey of Women after Lumpectomy and/or Mastectomy” published in Journal of the American College of Surgeons in February of 2018 conducted a nationwide internet survey to explore how women become informed about their breast surgery options. Results of their study showed that only 47% of patients who underwent lumpectomy felt “completely informed” about treatment options before their operations, 67% of women who underwent mastectomy and 28% of those who underwent both lumpectomy and mastectomy felt the same. “Making a quick decision” was more important than “thoroughly researching all options” for 35% of lumpectomy-only patients, 31% of mastectomy-only patients, and 22% of patients having both procedures.
What can patients do to improve their understanding?
The results from this study show that there is room for improvement for physicians in fully informing patients about their treatment options. However, patients can also take some measures to facilitate understanding and making the right decision.
- If possible, have a friend or family member present during the consultation. They can be your second set of ears and can help remember what was discussed during the visit.
- Take notes. If there are any follow up visits, make sure to bring unanswered questions to be addressed.
- Go for a second opinion unless you feel very comfortable with the initial consulting physician. It is encouraged and important as the patient must have complete trust and be very comfortable with the treating physician. Physicians should never be offended when patients seek a second opinion.
- Remember that everyone’s tumor is different and you may not require the same treatment as your family member or friend.
The period between the initial receipt of diagnosis and initiation of treatment often is the most difficult time for the patient emotionally. It also coincides with the time to make very important and sometimes difficult medical decisions. It is important for the treating physicians to treat the patient as a whole person, not just the disease, and for the patients to take steps to ensure they make decisions when they feel fully informed of all options.