Whatever you may know about your cancer prior to surgery, until the pathology report is in and your doctor reviews it with you, you do not know all there is to know about your breast cancer or what treatment you may need.
Tissue removed during your surgery will be sent out for a comprehensive examination by a pathologist(s). Results of these tests will been sent to your doctor over several days to a few weeks. As each report comes in, your doctor will add it to the results of tests he or she already has in your file from any other tests done prior to your surgery.
Once all the reports are in, your doctor, be it the surgeon or medical oncologist to whom you’ve been referred, can meet with you and discuss the results of your pathology report and share what he or she believes is the appropriate treatment for you.This treatment plan is based on what is called Staging.
Your cancer is staged by information gathered from various lab tests performed on the specimens submitted to the pathologist. A user friendly description of Staging can be found at www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/diagnosis/staging.jsp
A pathology report can be quite complex and needs to be explained thoroughly. You have the right to know what each section of the report is about. As your stage is explained to you, take time to absorb what you are being told and what it means for your treatment.
Feel free to ask questions and don’t stop asking until you understand what is being said to you. Bring someone with you to this very important discussion. Give that person a list of your questions and have them ask what you might forget to ask.
Don’t settle on a medical oncologist. Find one you like and feel you can trust. This is the person who will manage your chemotherapy, if it is needed, and monitor you if you are put on a hormone therapy, which you will take for a period of five years. This is a long time to spend with someone that doesn’t give you a comfort level.
If radiation is your treatment, then find a radiology center where you feel you can be comfortable. If necessary, visit a few before making a decision.