When a breast exam or mammogram points to something suspicious, doctors refer patients for a biopsy. During this procedure, a small sample of cells or tissue from the suspicious area is collected using surgery, needles, or other techniques. After the sample is removed, it is sent to a lab for testing.
If the test results say cancer was found, you may want to seek a second opinion to confirm the diagnosis. Before getting a second opinion, you may want to contact your insurance company to find out what your policy covers.
Elyse Caplan remembers it well, that first conversation with her oncologist.
She had just been diagnosed with stage IIB breast cancer, and they were
discussing the game plan for treatment. If her oncologist mentioned
"recurrence" -- the possibility that her cancer could return -- it was
lost on her, she says.
"You sit through an hour-long appointment and take notes, but when the
doctor says one thing that's very upsetting, you just freeze," she tells
WebMD. "You're thinking, 'I'm going to...
First, ask your doctor for a referral to a breast cancer specialist, or call hospitals or medical centers that treat breast cancer. The National Cancer Institute has labeled some centers as providing state-of-the-art, up-to-date cancer treatment. You can get a list of these centers by calling the Cancer Information Service at 1-800-422-6237. Get the names of several doctors and hospitals that offer the newest, most effective treatments and have the most experience in treating breast cancer.
When getting a second opinion, you'll want the doctor to make sure the initial diagnosis is based on expert review at an institution experienced in identifying different types of cancers and disease stages.
When you have cancer, getting the right treatment the first time is very important. You'll want to ask the second-opinion doctor to evaluate the treatment planned for you to ensure it's the latest therapy with the best chance of treating the type of cancer you have.
Consider these questions when seeking a second opinion for breast cancer:
Are the doctors who treat and diagnose breast cancer board-certified?
Is the hospital accredited by the Joint Committee on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations and the American College of Surgery?
Does the American College of Radiology Mammography Accreditation Program accredit the mammography facility?
Has the hospital been positively and consistently recognized for medical excellence and leadership?
How many women are treated for breast cancer at the hospital each year?
How many mammograms are performed each year at this facility?
How many stereotactic breast biopsies are performed each year?
How many surgeries to treat breast cancer are performed each year?