Just looking for information

My mum found a 5cm lump in her breast.  Shes 72.  Gp referred her to the breast clinic and she had her appointment last Monday 10th August.  She had ultrasound and biopsies.  Consultant says looks like stage 2 breast cancer.  Still waiting for results and follow up appointment.  How reliable is the diagnosis without biopsy results? What’s next? My mum, sister and myself anxious and worried.  Any information and advice please?

Hi Tina

I’m sorry your mum’s in this position. It’s a very emotional time - the diagnosis enough terrifies people but it IS all manageable and bearable, as many many of us here can tell you. She’s fortunate to have you for support.

A diagnosis without tests stems from the oncologist/breast surgeon’s expertise. They often know just by the feel and location and no specialist would be heartless enough to specify breast cancer, only to retract it later. So I’d say it’s reliable. The detail will come with the further tests and the initial diagnosis may change. Mine changed 3 times in 3 weeks and then changed again after my mastectomy.

What follows will depend on what is discovered in the tests. If it stays as Stage 2, then the treatment plan may be a partial mastectomy and radiotherapy, followed by hormone therapy, or a full mastectomy and hormone therapy. Certain types of breast cancer tend to be treated with chemotherapy. Again, at Stage 2 this may be offered as a treatment option or it may not be necessary but, unpleasant though it is, it’s not as terrifying as its public image suggests. It’s doable and each person reacts differently - some carry on working and running the home, some are knocked for six from the start. 

For me, much of the experience was dealing with my feelings. Already you’ve mentioned anxiety and worry. Now is the time to make sure your mum is doing practical things to strengthen herself emotionally. For some it’s yoga or meditation, mindfulness or marathons. For me it was plugging into some great videos on YouTube and achieving precious hours of not thinking about cancer (try Progressive Hypnosis’s Manifest Healing - it saw me through the year). You and your sister could do the same as breast cancer does take its toll on the family.

In the current situation, it’s unlikely your mum will be able to take someone with her to appointments. You can help by sitting down with her and writing out the questions she wants to ask. I promise you, the mind goes blank faced with a breast surgeon or oncologist! But take the lead from her as it’s her illness and she may not want all the information you might think helpful. She will also be assigned a breast care nurse who will see her through everything and be an invaluable source of information about what support is available and what on earth is going on. You can also ring the nurses at the number above - they are wonderfully supportive - and you may have a Breast Cancer Haven or a Maggie’s in your area which can help. BUT one of the worst things you can do is google things. The information is generalised and takes no personal feelings into account. It can’t adapt to unique diagnoses and the result is a lot of confusion and terror. Many of us have made that mistake.

Just continue to be there as a source of support and strength and take the lead from her now. I wish you all the best,

Jan x