We all ask this question, even if only in our minds. The difficult truth, of
course, is that no one can give you a guarantee -- not your surgeon, not your
oncologist. But you have far better odds than you may think. Most women with
breast cancer in the U.S. survive more than five years, the yardstick used by
When you're first diagnosed with breast cancer, all you can
think about is "Am I going to die?" But as you begin to learn to live
with your cancer diagnosis, you start to think about other
things, like "What am I going to look like bald?" It may sound
frivolous, but ask any breast cancer survivor and she'll tell you that she
thought a lot about whether to splurge on that real human hair wig or
what she'd look like in a swimsuit.
Feeling good about how you look is an important part of feeling...
Do a lot of research! Go on the Internet or to the local library. Take
notes! You'll feel more in control if you're informed. And it'll help you ask
the right questions to get the answers you need from your doctors. Some doctors
may not offer to show you your pathology report showing the type of cancer you
have and possibly information on how far it has spread. Ask for it! Some
doctors may not offer you all the treatment choices. Others may lay out every
possible choice, then say the decision is up to you. Either way, you'll feel
more confident if you've done your own research.
Also, talk to other survivors. Go on the Internet and visit message boards
for breast cancer survivors. Just post the question: Anyone out there who was
diagnosed 10 or even 20 years ago? You'll be amazed by all the women who answer
you. They can offer you the hope and courage you need now.
How am I going to look after treatment?
The answer depends on what you do.
If you have a mastectomy that is covered by your health insurance, your
insurance is required to cover full reconstructive surgery as well. You can
even have the plastic surgeon waiting to walk into the operating room the
moment your breast surgeon walks out. But you'll have to ask for this; don't
expect your doctor or insurer to suggest it! Plastic surgeons can rebuild real
looking breasts with implants or with tissue from your own body (like fat and
muscle). They can even rebuild the nipple.
If you have a lumpectomy, you may have a small dimple in your breast -- or a
large divot -- it all depends on how much tissue the surgeon removes.