• Newly diagnosed with breast cancer - my head is spinning, where to begin????

    Asked by malia on Thursday, September 20, 2012

    Newly diagnosed with breast cancer - my head is spinning, where to begin????

    I was just diagnosed with breast cancer and I am completely shocked. I am lucky to live in the NYC area where there are several cancer centers with excellent reputations. But how do you decide exactly where is the best place to go for your treatment? What factors influenced you when selecting the place and people that hold your life in their hands?

    21 Answers from the Community

    21 answers
    • FreeBird's Avatar

      New York has some of the best facilities in the country. Memorial Sloan-Kettering has an outstanding reputation http://www.mskcc.org/locations

      If I lived where you are, that would be my first choice.

      What influenced our choice, as I'm a caregiver for my dad, was location, a good and friendly doctor, and a reasonably good facility. In dad's situation, the treatment is chemotherapy only, and weekly visits. So choosing a local facility made it easier on him.

      Best wishes, and good health to you.

      over 8 years ago
    • lynn1950's Avatar

      Getting a cancer diagnosis CAN make your head spin. Take things one step at a time. I've heard that Memorial Sloan-Kettering is top notch, too. I asked at my doctor's office for recommendations, because I trust them. I ended up with kind, caring, knowledgeable doctors and nurses.

      over 8 years ago
    • BuckeyeShelby's Avatar

      I'm actually not going to the big name in my area. I had considered getting a 2nd opinion w/the big guns. A couple things changed my mind. My medical oncologist has worked w/the big name and has flat out told me, if he feels they could serve me better, he would not hesitate to refer me. And my surgical oncologist won me over the 1st time I met him. He said to me, "it's nice to meet you. I'm sorry you have to be here". I've since learned he is one of the most respected surgeons in the state. And to paraphrase my dr: welcome to the site. I'm sorry you have to be here.

      over 8 years ago
    • Peroll's Avatar

      If your cancer is stage 3 or less you might want to look more for a clinic with good patient services rather than the big name center. Good patient services make the whole experience more tolerable. Also make sure you get doctors that will answer all of your questions in a manner that you can understand. Answers to your questions is your right. You can always go to the big name center for a second opinion, I have done that. Also insist that your doctors actually talk to each other about your treatment. I know how devastating the first diagnosis is, but remember cancer is not a death sentence, it can be beat. Also remember that all the statistics that they cite are at least 5 years old and medical technology has come along way since then so reality is better than anyone they can cite. Take some time and get your head together, as you have a fight on your hands, but it is a fight you will win!!!

      over 8 years ago
    • Bulldogdarc's Avatar

      If you have a regular doc or obgyn that you trust, and I* mean trust, ask him / her ? You are young ,so you may want to insist on genetic testing BRCCA 1 or 2 especially if you are Jewish or have had cancer in the family. I wish that I would have known about my genetic predisposition to cancer- I would have done things differently. I also got second opinions and talked to other women that had cancer.

      over 8 years ago
    • copland16's Avatar

      Hi Malia!
      I was 39 when I was diagnosed. I remember those first few weeks until I had a plan; it was awful. My primary physician explained the entire process for me and that helped a little. You need to take one step at a time... Step 1 find a doctor that you trust. I found one: my breast surgeon. Then I worked on my primary doctor's referral for medical oncologist. I didn't like her so I asked my breast surgeon her advice. I found someone that was wonderful. I went to Dana-Farber, top hospital in Boston. That was the right decision for me as I was also pregnant. What I loved is that they reviewed my case weekly at the Tumor Board to get a consensus on my treatment plan. Also, even though it was a big name hospital I was always treated wonderfully and as an individual. I had radiation done locally. We have a new cancer center one town over that was affiliated with Dana-Farber so I went ther...they were great too. They used to watch my son during my treatment!
      Trust your instincts. I don't know why I didn't like the first medical oncologist I met but I didn't.
      If you have one doctor that you like let them assemble your team. My breast surgeon assembled all of my doctors: plastic surgeon, medical oncologist, radation oncologist, maternal fetal medicine (because I was pregnant). She was colleagues and friends with 2 of my other doctors.
      So much to say...please let me know if you need anything.
      I will be celebrating my 2 year anniversary in October and 1 year post-treatment too. You can do this!!!!

      over 8 years ago
    • Nancebeth's Avatar

      I was lucky in that my plastic surgeon is a friend from elementary school. He specializes in breast reconstruction. I was able to talk to him whenever I needed and he really made me feel comfortable with all of my decisions. I am also lucky in that I live in south/central Florida where there are numerous excellent cancer centers and doctors and surgeons.
      I write a blog about my experiences from diagnosis to adjuvent therapy.
      It might help to read what others have gone through. I read a few other blogs as well and it feels good to know I am not alone in making these difficult life choices.

      over 8 years ago
    • Valentinegirl's Avatar

      Hi Malia,
      First of all...breathe...
      When I was first diagnosed, I decided to go to one of the big cancer centers (Mass General in Boston), and also had a second opinion at Dana Farber (another top notch hospital). I chose these hospitals based on their excellent reputation for medical care. Due to the fact that I'm having a serious illness treated, it was most important for me to feel as if I were getting the best treatment in my area. With this, even though these are large facilities, I have never been treated with anything but dignity and respect, and have never felt as if I were just another patient. I like my treatment team , and I have the best chemo nurse ever! In choosing your treatment center, you'll need to decide which factors are most important to you (hospital reputation, convenenience, your feelings about your treatment team, etc).
      Most of all, take care of yourself through all of this! Ask for help from your friends and family when you need it, and do whatever you need to do to make it through this.


      over 8 years ago
    • Brownj1's Avatar

      Hi Malia,
      I was diagnosed in March 2012 and was faced with the same treatment choices you have, since I live about 15 minutes from River Edge. My primary physician recommended Dr. Monica Morrow, Chief of Breast Surgery at Sloan Kettering, or the Chief of Breast Surgery at Valley Hospital. I saw both, and even though it would have been easier on me and my husband to be treated at Valley and not to travel into the city, decided to go with Dr.Morrow. My primary physician had a family member that was treated by Dr. Morrow, and the radiologist locally who was trained at Sloan, but works every day with the breast surgeon at Valley, also said that if it were her or her family,she would go to Sloan. You can find videos of Dr. Morrow on both the Susan G.Komen and the Memorial Sloan Kettering website. She is one of the best in the country. Good luck.

      over 8 years ago
    • ErinJ's Avatar

      Stop and take a deep breath. I was diagnosed at the same age as you and was completely shocked as well. I had two young children and worried more about their future. Since mine was diagnosed when it had already spread to the lymphodes, the most difficult time for me was the several days between my brain/bone scans and the results~ the not knowing. Fortunately, it had not spread that far and I am six years out now :-) Healthy, happy and strong.

      The near future is going to be a time of information overload for you so I recommend you take it slow. Dr. Susan Love's Breast Cancer book is the best resource I know and a good place to start. I have three pieces of advice for you:

      1. Bring a friend to your appointments. My husband and I were so overwhelmed, it was a huge help to have someone sitting in the back of the room taking notes and reviewing them with us later. There was so much I missed because my mind would linger on one thing the doctor said!
      2. Find a doctor you are comfortable with and trust with your life- literally. You should be a partner in your health and decision making. Do NOT be affaid to meet with several doctors and switch if you need to.
      3. Take you time making decisions about reconstruction-ect. I was so tired of everything that I found myself just saying "okay" to whatever was suggested. In hindsight, I would have taken more time to research and consider options for reconstruction.

      Most important~ take care of yourself. Rembemer, you are already a Survivor!

      over 8 years ago
    • osu2sum's Avatar

      This wasn't in your plan for the year - don't I know it. My medical oncologist said that they expect us to earn a doctorate in a week, with all the decisions you get to make. So yes, there's doctors who are compassionate, excellent at what they do, and have a sense of humor on top of it all. I found all my oncology doctors through my OB/GYN. They are all together as your team to help you through this diagnosis. Best wishes! Carol Ann

      over 8 years ago
    • SusanK's Avatar

      I'm sorry about your diagnosis. Oh, when you first get the diagnosis...well, what a mess you're in. After a while, though, you figure it out. With the help of good medical people, of course. I went blindly to the specialists my long-time family doctor recommended. Thank goodness he knew which professionals would be best for me. Sometimes going to the big-name places might not be necessary. What is necessary is that you find doctors you can trust and respect and who show you respect as well. I've talked to a lot of cancer patients over the last year, some who traveled to larger hospitals two hours away, and they weren't always pleased with "being a number, not a name." Everybody's experience is different. Good luck as you move through this process. And, continue to bring your questions to the site.

      over 8 years ago
    • SandiD's Avatar

      You have been given excellent advice here, but first, remember that Breast Cancer IS NOT the death sentence it was once believed to be! There are many survivors out here. I suggest you go to www.breastcancer.org for some excellent info. I really relied on that site. I asked my primary doc who he suggested for a surgeon and chose a woman. I loved her! I had her suggest where I should go for treatment because I trusted her. I went to the Huntsman Cancer in Utah. This was my second cancer (colon cancer a year earlier) so I sure understand your head spinning! Educate yourself and ask questions along the way. Support groups, even on line are very helpful. Good luck to you! Go fight like a girl now!

      over 8 years ago
    • GrandmaCynthia's Avatar

      Hi Malia,
      I am sorry to hear about your diagnosis. I, too, was shocked and in disbelief. I was just diagnosed at the end of May and am in the middle of chemotherapy. My primary care physician recommended a surgeon, who did my lumpectomy and then sent me to a local oncology group. When I got their recommendation for treatment, I went to Vanderbilt Medical Center for a second opinion. It turned out that both places would give the exact same treatment, but Vanderbilt had a clinical trial that I was interested in. So that's where I'm getting my treatment. Wherever you go first, it is always smart to get a second opinion. My insurance company paid for the second opinion with no problem.

      Good luck to you!

      over 8 years ago
    • Tania's Avatar

      Hi, malia:
      I am so sorry to hear your news. I am a 3 year breast cancer survior. I know to well what you are going through. When i found out I thought I was going to lose my mind. I went through 2 doctors I did not like and then I was lucky to ask a friend who told me the best place to go and she would recommend anyone and her family if she ever had too. I live in Miami, Florida and she was right I went to Slyvester Cancer Center and I have been blessed with the best. See if any friends of family member at least know about the places there. If you can't get an answer look it up on the internet and you will make the best choice. Have faith I can tell you I felt I was living a XXX nightmare but I can tell you I got out and I am now doing fine. Of course I am a high risk due to my mom and her sister they are also surviors so I am always getting tested. You will be fine. Stay positive it really does help and you are on the best network where we can help you and go through this together.. Good Luck and any, any questions you may have ask. The more you talk about it the more you ask questions the better it will get. You will get out of this nightmare.
      Hugs, from Miami, Florida - Tania

      over 8 years ago
    • RMR's Avatar

      First sorry to welcome you to the club no one wants to be part of. Its not surprising that your head is spinning. I was diagnosed with BC April 2011. At the time someone told me its not a medical emergency, its an emotional crisis. Just know with what is known today about BC its very treatable.

      I was treated at the Cancer Center where I live, which is a very good one. I went to NY for a second opinion but got treatment at my hometown center. Being in NY you have great resources, as many already mentioned. Sloan Kettering and Columbia are right up there. The main thing is to go where you feel comfortable and where you trust your team of doctors the most. I used the second opinion at the time I was deciding on my treatment plan. At some point along your journey you should consider a second opinion.

      Good Luck to you - here's to survivorship.

      over 8 years ago
    • Laurie's Avatar

      First of all, take a deep breath. It isn't a rush, unless you have IBC. You have a few weeks to get more info.
      #1. Your primary care doc can give you names. Tell your doc what interests you: do you need a super compassionate doc, do you care if s/he's the best doc in the world but has crappy bedside mannor, do you want every little detail explained or do you just want the doc to decide what needs to be done and do it. You will not be happy and it will be way more stressful if you don't match up, trust me!
      #2. Who is in your insurance network. Watch out-----the hospital might be, but the anesthesiologist might not. Your insurance should still pay the in-network fees, tho you will likely have to call them and say, hey, how was I supposed to know (same is true for ER docs, by the way).
      #3. If there is a breast cancer support group, go visit. See who people went to.
      #4. It's best if there is a team approach. I have issues with my docs not conferring with each other, therefore surgeon put me on tamoxifen pre-radiation and radiation said that increased burns more. Last surgeon never told my onco about the mastectomies, so we were 4 months behind for treatment. If you are not fortunate to have a place where all the docs work together and you see as a team, YOU will need to take charge. Anything anybody does you need to notify the others (surgery, meds, radiation, lab test, etc). ALWAYS keep copies of your labs, EKGs, surgical report, med list, all your doc list, contact list.

      over 8 years ago
    • SueRae1's Avatar

      A cancer diagnosis can make your head spin I live in NYC and I am being treated and Columbia / Cornell campus (is a fantastic hospital. The # hospital in NY - and just behind Sloan as a center of excellence for cancer treatment. I would highly recommend my cancer treatment team, and can give you info on where to get great 2nd opinions, which I recommend no matter where you are treated. I am being treated at the uptown campus (168th & Bdway) the East side campus is located on York and 70th. The important thing is that you feel comfortable with your doctors, your team, and with transpiration to and from you appointments. we are blessed to live in a city that has so many great options. If you live in Brooklyn -Maimonides' Breast Cancer center is good and getting better. Remember the "best" is what is best for you. set up interviews with doctors and hospitals you are interested in. I love my teams but still got 2nd opinions every step of the way. Sloan is a great hsopital, but and I know people who love it as passionately as I love Columbia, but i also know people who said the care was excellent but the treatment style/personality was not their cup of tea.

      Please feel free to get in touch with me for contact information, how to navigate the system, etc.

      over 8 years ago
    • SueRae1's Avatar

      an addendum to my previous answer. I see that you live in Edge Water (how did I miss that the first time around.. oh yeah I had my infusion yesterday I claim chemo brain) Colombia is about 15-20 min away if the GW isn't backed up to the Water Gap ;). So from a transportation point of view that may might work best for you. I have found that being treated closer to home, works better for me. I can manage getting to my appointments easier, and the two times I wound up the emergency room (admit once with 103, and just to make sure I was OK after a fall), meant my medical history was easy to get to and my doctors and the nurse practitioners on my team where able to direct treatment and see me personally .

      over 8 years ago
    • Laugh's Avatar

      Hi Malia, I'm born and raised in NY and for 26 years now, I've been living in L.A. I was 59 and had just signed the papers ending a 35 yr. old marriage when I found out I had breast cancer. Yes, "What's Next" perfectly describes my situation. At that point we were living in Arcadia CA. and I had hoped to have all my treatments nearby since I knew the routine from when my Mom was diagnosed at age 69. I was told since the tumor was so close to the right arm there were 5 lymph nodes also cancerous. After facing the reality that this was not a dream but a shocking reality that I couldn't ignore. The first hospital didn't have the procedure to identify the nodes as cancerous or not . The second hospital, quite renown, "City Of Hope" I entered and asked to speak to the surgeon and oncologist. The oncologist was specific and sensitive to his way of describing the process. But when I asked the surgeon what would the surgery be like, he started to describe saying, "I cut you in this part, then I'll go up there and on and on. And then they gave me a bunch of questionnaires to respond to. It felt like all they wanted was to bunch me into a number as part of their statistics.
      Well, my 3rd visit was 45 min. away from where I lived, located in Long Beach CA. PS. my daughter was with me through all this. So, we went, and by the way, I taped everything, and still today, I do the same, after celebrating my 12th year of being cancer free.

      So, I had taken the exray with me but she, the surgeon, didn't look at it first. She leaned over and examined me with her eyes shut and then gently examined and in her soft spoken manner sat down to explain each step. And that was where I chose to travel and I don't regret it at all. Eventually, I moved to Long Beach, now my home for 10 years.
      Responded by Laugh.

      over 8 years ago
    • Chocolatenator's Avatar

      After I recd my diagnosis I did not like what my first had to say or couldn't say. I then went to Dana Farber Cancer Institute. I made an instant connection of trust with my doctor. To me that is the most important thing that you feel comfortable and trust your doctor as you begin your journey. Good luck!

      over 8 years ago

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