You’ve Been Diagnosed With Breast Cancer: Now What?

Diagnosis is the first step in dealing with breast cancer. Learn more about what to expect next.

Diagnosis is the first step in dealing with breast cancer. Learn more about what to expect next.

A breast cancer diagnosis is never easy, and it’s an emotional and physical diagnosis that affects every woman in a very personal manner. While everything might feel like it’s out of your control, understanding what comes next and how you would like to deal with each piece of the process is important. Each individual treatment plan is dependent upon on the location, size, stage and type of breast cancer you have, your body’s health and sensitivity to hormones and your personal preferences.


In this initial period, you and your doctor will try to learn everything you can about your cancer. What type is it? Where is it located? Has it spread, and if so, what is its predicted path? Knowing the stage of your cancer helps to identify whether cancer is at an early, locally advanced or metastatic stage. In turn, this knowledge determines the course of treatment your doctor will recommend.

The stages of breast cancer are:

Call for an Appointment
(800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273)

  • 0 — You’ve caught it early, and your cancer has not spread.
  • I – III — Your cancer has grown, spreading to nearby tissues and possibly the lymph nodes. The higher the stage, the more advanced the cancer.
  • IV — Your cancer has metastasized, or spread to other parts of your body.

Seeking a second opinion

Don’t second-guess yourself and let your worries take over. Instead, take action, and seek a second opinion to confirm the diagnosis. At a comprehensive cancer center, like the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center at Keck Medicine of USC, you might be diagnosed by one doctor and then get a second opinion from another doctor – all in the same day and clinic.

Choosing your doctor

Even before treatment begins, it is important that you choose a doctor with whom you feel comfortable and in whom you have confidence. A benefit of having treatment at a comprehensive cancer center, like USC Norris, is that upon your diagnosis, you are immediately surrounded by a multidisciplinary care team of oncologists, nurses, radiologists and psychologists, who work together to guide you through to recovery. You have a right to discuss your health, emotions and post-care in detail. Having complete trust in your care team and feeling comfortable enough to ask questions will give you peace of mind throughout the process.

Understanding your treatment plan

Because there is no one-size-fits-all treatment for breast cancer, your doctor will discuss various types of treatment and the best plan for you. This includes the types of operations, complications that can arise and reconstruction options after your breast cancer surgery.

Telling your friends and family you have cancer

Only you can determine when it’s the right time to talk with friends and family about your diagnosis. Perhaps you need immediate support to help you understand your diagnosis. Or, maybe you want time to absorb the news by yourself, without the added weight of worrying about your loved ones. When the time is right, find a place where you can talk openly and without interruption. Share as much or as little as you want. At first, talking about your disease can be hard, but over time, you and your loved ones will become more comfortable with honest and open conversation.

by Heidi Tyline King

As one of the eight original National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the United States, USC Norris at Keck Medicine is one of the preeminent academic medical institutions in the country. If you are in the Los Angeles area, make an appointment, by calling (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or visiting