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Knowledge is Power When Faced with Cancer Diagnosis

Publication: Midland Reporter-Telegram

As a radiation oncologist at Texas Oncology, I help many breast cancer patients navigate through the complex maze of their health care journey.

What weighs on each patient’s mind is the question, “Am I going to be OK?” Thankfully, the answer is often a resounding, “Yes!” Although breast cancer is expected to be the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women in 2018, it’s one of the most treatable and survivable when discovered early. Women diagnosed with breast cancer that has not spread outside the breast have a higher survival rate, according to the American Cancer Society. Steady declines in breast cancer mortality since 1990 are attributed to a combination of early detection and treatment improvements.

While each patient’s fight against breast cancer is unique, here’s what I recommend women to do, and to not do, when they are diagnosed with breast cancer.

--DO: Take a deep breath, organize your thoughts, and take it one step at a time.

Patients say their minds race when they’re diagnosed with breast cancer. They immediately think about who else may be affected, the treatment and how their life will change. It is important to take a moment to organize your thoughts and allow the reality of the diagnosis to sink in.

--DON’T listen to friends and family tell horror stories.

While friends and family mean well, they often share negative cancer-related experiences. It’s easy to begin thinking their stories apply to your situation, but that’s generally not true. Amazing advances in breast cancer treatments have made increased and less invasive options available.

--DO: Educate yourself about breast cancer using reliable sources.

Most women try to gather as much information as possible about the disease. Each case is different, so it’s important to first allow your doctor to explain your exact circumstances. Texas Oncology recommends visiting several reliable websites to learn more, including Breastcancer.org, Cancer.gov, and Cancer.org.

--DON’T just search “breast cancer” on the internet.

The internet’s vastness makes it difficult to determine medical-based sources from misleading information. Simply searching for “breast cancer” can yield sensational information not applicable to your experience. Reliable online information is posted by established organizations, such as the American Cancer Society, that have standards for scientifically verifying and updating information.

--DO: Stay positive.

Remaining positive while undergoing treatment can be difficult. We encourage patients to identify one thing that helps them relax and re-focus, then use this tool to stay positive throughout their fight against cancer. Staying close to friends, family and support groups also helps.

--DON’T ever stop asking questions

Be your own advocate. While you should trust your oncology team and know they’re providing you with quality care, you should also be comfortable with your treatment plan every step of the way.

Knowledge is power. We offer nutrition and wellness classes through Midland Memorial Hospital and support groups through Gifts of Hopes to provide an educational, supportive environment for patients and caregivers to achieve the greatest outcomes possible. With nearly 50 Texas Oncology providers throughout West Texas, we are a knowledgeable, local resource for patients. 

Dr. Robin Akins is a radiation oncologist at Texas Oncology – Midland Allison Cancer Center.

Read the full story at Midland Reporter-Telegram.

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