Breast Cancer Basics | New Breast Cancer Diagnosis | ITC
Breast Cancer Basics 2018-05-24T11:05:25+00:00

You’ve Got Breast Cancer: What Now?

You’ve come here to figure out what the breast cancer basics are.

Let’s begin with some good news. The mortality rate for breast cancer dropped significantly over the past thirty years. It peaked in 1990 and is now about forty percent lower. So although life with breast cancer is never a walk in the park, it’s better than it used to be.

Another reason for hope is that we know more about prevention. And that includes prevention of the recurrence of breast cancer. But we’ll get to that later.

Let’s look first at what breast cancer is and at the different treatments for it. Then we’ll show you how you can take charge of your journey through and beyond breast cancer.



What is Breast Cancer and Why Is It Harmful?

Breast cancer is cancer that develops in the breast. Cancer can form anywhere in the body. It occurs when cells divide uncontrollably and invade surrounding tissue.

Cancer cells are abnormal. Unlike normal cells, they don’t offer any benefit to the body. However, they influence the surrounding tissue, causing the body to supply them with precious oxygen and nutrients. In this way, cancerous tumors grow.

If breast cancer spreads (metastasizes) beyond the breast and into other organs it can be harmful and even deadly. This is because it interferes with the function of important organs and bodily processes.

To better understand your specific breast cancer diagnosis, it may be helpful to go over this article on breast cancer terms.

Specific Breast Cancer Types:

Mother/daughter breast
cancer story(invasive breast
cancer and DCIS)

Read More

Sisters with breast cancer
(stage II and stage III)

Read More

Hope for patients with
triple-negative breast cancer

Read More

Interview with stage IV
survivor Karla Baptiste

Read More

Biomarkers for metastatic
breast cancer that spreads to
the brain.

Read More

Treatment for Breast Cancer

Breast cancer treatments vary and are based on the type, grade, and stage of the cancer. Other factors, including personal preferences and health history, are also taken into consideration. Here are brief descriptions of some common treatments and what you can expect from them:

What If I’m the Exception?

Maybe you’re not a middle-aged white woman. Perhaps you’re pregnant. Or African American. Or a man. Maybe you smoke. Or maybe you’re still in your twenties.

Your breast cancer basics are different. There’s no way to argue otherwise. The statistics and treatments for breast cancer and even breast reconstruction have centered around a different average. Not your average. That doesn’t mean things will be worse (or better) for you. That means you need to find out how they’ll be different. Click below to explore our articles on being the breast cancer exception.

What If I..


Taking Charge of Your Breast Cancer Journey

You’ve barely been diagnosed, and now your physician wants to schedule a mastectomy for tomorrow!?

Okay—maybe it’s not quite like that. But still, what about your daughter’s wedding next month? What about the cruise you planned this winter? Cancer treatment is time-consuming. Not to mention that side effects can be a bear. It might not be something you want to start immediately. But will putting off surgery or other treatment affect the outcome?

This can be a tough question. A lot depends on your particular breast cancer diagnosis. Let’s look at some recent research on the topic.Ductal Carcinoma In Situ

A May 2017 article about the latest news on treatment for DCIS emphasizes that patients with DCIS have time to consider their options. It doesn't indicate how much time, but it does mention a recent study in Radiology about how DCIS takes five years, on average, to become invasive. It also recommends a test called Oncotype DCIS, which can help reduce overtreatment. The article features comments by Dr. Jean L. Wright, M.D. of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

  Invasive Breast Cancer (Stages I to III)  

A 2016 investigation on time to surgery for breast cancer patients offers insight for patients with invasive breast cancer. It presents an analysis of data from over 94,000 breast cancer patients. Patients whose treatment was delayed for over 120 days after diagnosis had the lowest survival rates. This was most significant for patients with stage I breast cancer. Survival rates decreased with every 30 days of delay (0-30, 31-60, 61-90, and 90-120).

Metastatic Breast Cancer (Stage IV Invasive Breast Cancer)

There’s only one study on treatment delays and metastatic breast cancer. It was published in 2011 and indicates that delays of over 12 weeks have an adverse effect on survival. The researchers also found a greater incidence of death from first treatment if it was done at 12-24 weeks after diagnosis, as opposed to before 12 weeks. is encouraging researchers to do more to understand this disease.

Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC)

A 2013 study on TNBC demonstrated that delays of less than 90 days generally don't affect survival at 40 months/3.3 years or local recurrence by that time. However, a 2017 study showed slightly greater 5-year survival rates if treatment began at less than 30 days from diagnosis. In both studies, stage at diagnosis had a greater impact than timing of treatment. The researchers of the 2013 study believe that time can be taken to customize treatment. Customization can be aided by genetic testing, imaging, and further consultation.

Young Women

A 2013 study on breast cancer treatment delay in young women revealed that timing matters. The five-year survival rate in young women (ages 15-39) was found to be 90% if treatment began within two weeks of diagnosis. If treatment began more than six weeks later, the five-year survival rate dropped to 80%. The researchers took other factors (including age, race, socioeconomic status, insurance status, cancer stage, tumor markers, and treatment) into account.

In Summary

If you need a few days to mentally prepare yourself or line up help, that shouldn't impact your results. Moreover, if you need a few weeks for further testing or a second opinion, it may not do any harm.

That being said, it’s also important to consider appointment logistics, such as availability of your treatment team. You can always cancel an appointment. But you usually can't schedule a same-day appointment.

“It seems remarkable to me that within just a couple miles of each other I could find two physicians with such vastly different views, abilities, and information. My new surgeon understood all my questions, took the time to answer as many as she could, and honestly told me when she couldn’t . . . (read more)” - Lisa Norman

If your circumstances (location/insurance provider) allow it, try to seek care at an accredited institution. Many states offer centers accredited by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers. National Cancer Center-designated cancer centers are also a great choice. One study showed a 34 percent lower risk of death for breast cancer patients treated at them. If you don't have these choices, make the most of your options by asking good questions.

Treatment can be expensive, even if you have good insurance coverage. We're still working on our financing page. Until we have that available, a great place to find resources is at Their page, entitled Managing the Costs of Your Cancer Treatment, explains the importance of planning ahead and offers some resources. Komen offers a list of financial resources for breast cancer patients. If you need help with non-medical cost of living expenses, check out The Pink Fund to see if you're eligible. They may provide up to $3,000 for 90 days.

Breast reconstruction can (if the patient desires) begin during mastectomy or lumpectomy. Therefore, some patients may want to explore coverage for that before treatment. Many patients aren't aware that insurance companies are required to cover reconstruction after mastectomy. For more information on breast reconstruction and on financing it, visit our Breast Reconstruction 101 page.

Even if you seek care at a premier treatment center, you should still be proactive by asking good questions. Here is a printable, comprehensive list of questions for your breast cancer care team.

Finding Help During and After Breast Cancer Treatment

“By asking for help it’s not that you’re weak. It’s not that you’re anything like that. It’s just allowing somebody else to give their gift.”

-Marjean Holden