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What to Do After a Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Experts explain what newly diagnosed cancer patients need to know to help fight their disease.

Talk to Other Patients

Gomez has had four surgeries to remove gastrointestinal tumors in the 10 years since her cancer was diagnosed, and she may face more in the future if the tumors target her liver or grow big enough to block her intestines.

She now volunteers at a telephone hot line run by M.D. Anderson that matches cancer patients with people who have had the same diagnosis or treatment.

"My cancer is so rare that I didn't meet another person who had it until five years after my diagnosis," she says. "It was very, very lonely."

Gomez now talks to at least one person a week with her disease in her volunteer role, and she believes this is one of the best things patients can do to learn about their illness.

"The Internet is a great learning tool, but it can also scare you to death," she says. "The statistics, especially, can be misleading. They may tell you survival for your disease is less than five years, for example, but if most people with your cancer are diagnosed in the 60s and 70s and you are in your 30s, that may not apply to you."

Tools You Can Use

The M.D. Anderson hot line can be reached by calling (800) 345-6324. All cancer patients or their caregivers are eligible to call. The Y-ME breast cancer support hot line can be reached in English at (800) 221-2141 and in Spanish at (800) 986-9505. Interpreters are also available in 150 other languages.

The American Cancer Society (www.cancer.org) and the National Cancer Institute (www.cancer.gov) both operate comprehensive web sites that include information on cancer treatments and clinical trials, as does WebMD. The information hot line number for ACS is (800) ACS-2345 and the number for NCI is (800) 4-CANCER.

The ACS offers a service to patients and their families that will help match them with clinical trials in their area. To find out about this service call (800) 303-5691 or click on the section entitled Emerging Medical Clinical Trials Matching Service on the ACS web site. You can find out about cancer trials through the NCI at the web site www.clinicaltrials.gov.

The ACS web site also offers a service to help patients understand their treatment options, says spokesman David Sampson. To access the service click on "Using Treatment Decision Tools" on the group's home page.

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