I Have Been Diagnosed with Breast Cancer, Now What?

If you were recently diagnosed with breast cancer, your head may be swimming and swirling with questions, that all boil down to this: What’s next? The breast cancer care professionals at Hunterdon Hematology Oncology, a part of the Hunterdon Regional Cancer Center, are able to answer that question in a uniquely powerful way. Hunterdon Hematology Oncology has an entire practice focused solely on breast cancer detection, treatment and eradication, and part of that charge will focus on answering your questions and putting your worries to rest.

First, a word about cancer survivability. “What are my chances, doctor? Am I going to survive?” And the answer today is very much more positive that it was 30 or 40 years ago. Today, the overall survivability rate for breast cancer is in the neighborhood of 70%. Scientific research and early detection techniques are improving the overall trends of both survival rate and quality of life, particularly for breast cancer.

Second, a few words about the treatment process for breast cancer. You may be confused about what you should do next, but the actual treatment process for breast cancer has a certain regularity about it: it usually requires radiation treatment or hormone treatment to shrink the size of the tumor, or chemotherapy, and/or surgery or some combination of these treatment modalities. It depends on the biology of the breast cancer tumor and varies by stage (I – IV).

A little more about cancer staging: Cancer treatment depends on the stage (severity of the tumor). Clinical stage is based initially on mammogram imaging and ultrasound imaging of the suspected tumor. Pathological staging is determined after surgery; after the tumor has been removed and a sample of lymph node tissue is taken. The cancer’s stage is based on the size of the tumor, and whether the lymph node is involved in (affected by) the cancer, as well as the grade of the tumor.

You also might be wondering whether it would be worth it to go to one of those national treatment centers that advertise on TV. The answer is no. Research data indicate no difference in outcomes between national and local cancer centers. First of all, the therapeutic approach for treating breast cancer is standardized across the entire country. Second, HHO specializes in the treatment of breast cancer. HHO has a team of excellent breast surgeons who are dedicated to treating only breast cancer patients. Patients at HHO are assigned a Nurse Navigator who helps the patient coordinate care, navigate the entire process and answer any questions the patient might have.

Also, getting treated locally at HHO has certain advantages over going to one of these large national centers. While getting the exact same level of care and specialization found at a national center, HHO provides a level of personalized attention and care that is difficult to find at a larger center. Being local means that if any issues arise, if you need to come back to the hospital, we are right here and can see you immediately. We offer genetics counseling, and you can come in and out to see him/her very easily. If you need to come in to get a blood count checked, we are right here. Need extra hydration? Ditto. Feeling extra-nauseous? Come on in. We also offer an oncology-certified dietician, with whom you can arrange a visit pretty much any time you want.

And finally, there are actually certain disadvantages to using a large national cancer center. If anything detrimental were to take place, a patient using a large national center might find themselves needing to go to a local ER, and there will be nobody there who is familiar with the patient’s case or will understand what is going on. This can actually be detrimental to their care. 

To learn more about Hunterdon Hematology Oncology’s cancer care treatment center NJ visit our breast cancer care page.

Dr. Megha Shah, M.D.
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