top of page

UNDERSTANDING YOUR STORY:

THE PROCESS OF
A BREAST CANCER DIAGNOSIS

Receiving a breast cancer diagnosis can feel like an emotional storm, casting clouds of fear and uncertainty over your life. But here's something essential to remember: knowledge can be your most comforting companion on this journey. In this blog post, we'll take you by the hand and guide you through the process of getting diagnosed with breast cancer, not as patients, but as fellow travelers on the same path.

STEP ONE:
THE BEGINNING MAMMOGRAM

WHY
MAMMOGRAMS
MATTER

Your journey starts with a simple yet powerful step – the mammogram. Mammograms are like snapshots of your breast tissue, capturing subtle changes even before they make their presence felt.

REGULAR 
SCREENINGS

For many of us, mammograms have become a part of our regular healthcare routine.

 

They're recommended annually or more frequently after the age of 40, depending on your age and unique risk factors. If you are under 40, know your risk factors, and with your medical professional, determine if your risk assessment would make you eligible for screenings under 40.

 

Due to my risk assessment, I started receiving screenings in my early 30’s and got alternating mammograms and breast MRIs, one every six months. It is because of those screenings I caught my cancer early, at the age of 39.

 

Do not let anyone say that you are too young for breast cancer.  Far too often, young people are dismissed when they push for knowledge around breast cancer under 40. 

 

Ask them to assess your risk levels to determine the best age to begin screenings. 

STEP TWO:
THE EXPLORATION
FOLLOW UP IMAGING & BIOPSY

SUSPICIOUS
FINDINGS

Sometimes, the mammogram shows something that needs a closer look. If this happens, do not panic. When an abnormality or a suspicious area appears, it's a signal to dig deeper.

 

There are many simple, benign things these could be, but it is essential to push forward still and get it checked. Sometimes this means that you will get a “call back” to have another mammogram, or perhaps a closer look with an ultrasound.

BIOPSY
THE DISCOVERY

If the area is still visible or if it looks suspicious on an ultrasound, then you may

need a biopsy. There are various biopsy methods, including core needle biopsy, fine needle aspiration, and surgical biopsy.

 

The type of biopsy recommended depends on the location and size of the suspicious area.

During this process, a small piece of tissue is collected from the area of concern and sent to a pathologist. Their job is to uncover whether the cells are cancerous and, if so, what kind of breast cancer it is.

 

Most biopsies are benign, however, if it is malignant, then this would be the stage where you are officially diagnosed.

STEP THREE:
THE PATHOLOGY REPORT

the
wait

Waiting for the results can feel like an eternity, a period filled with questions and doubts. But remember, the medical team is working to get all the answers they need to guide you on the next steps. The wait may range from a few days to a couple of weeks.

interpreting the
pathology report

When you receive your pathology report, it will contain crucial information about the type of breast cancer, its grade (how aggressive it is), and its hormone receptor status (ER, PR, HER2).

 

This information guides treatment decisions.

 

Sometimes, the pathology report comes in two stages.

The first stage can be a higher-level report, determining whether or not the biopsy is benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

 

If it is malignant, receiving a more detailed report of the hormone receptor status can take a few additional days

Receiving a breast cancer diagnosis is undoubtedly a life-changing moment.

As fellow travelers on this path, know that you are not alone. 

The pathology report provides crucial information that guides treatment decisions.

Surround yourself with a supportive healthcare team and reach out to the cancer community for guidance and emotional support. Remember that so many individuals have successfully navigated this journey before you and emerged stronger on the other side.

bottom of page