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What a Breast Cancer Diagnosis Means Today

By October 24, 2019March 24th, 2022Well-being
A group of women wearing pink and walking for breast cancer awareness.

When I was in my first year of nursing school, my grandfather was diagnosed with lung cancer. After his diagnosis, things declined very quickly, and within a year and half, he was gone. In the 1980s, it was very difficult to get information about what to expect and what everyone could do to support him during treatment. My grandmother told me that when she asked my grandfather’s physician what she should do, he told her, “Don’t buy any green bananas.” Clearly, not very helpful.

A few years later, when I began my nursing career, oncology was emerging as a new frontier in medicine. I started to see many new and diverse treatments for cancer. What was once a dark and uncertain world was brightened by a new factor: hope.

The Reality of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer statistics speak for themselves. Women in the United States have a one in eight chance of developing breast cancer. Except for skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women.

The good news is, when detected early, it is also one of the most treatable cancers. If caught in stages 0-I, the survival rate is close to 100 percent. In stage II, the rate is around 93 percent.

In the late 1990s, both my mother and sister were diagnosed with breast cancer. They were both given respect, treatment options, and the tools and support needed to adhere to their treatment courses. They were both survivors. Needless to say, after watching them both go through this, I feel very strongly about breast cancer awareness, prevention, screening, treatment, and the search for a cure.

Remember the Three “O”s When Facing a Breast Cancer Diagnosis

To mark breast cancer awareness month, I’d like to share the three “O”s. My hope is that women who are diagnosed with breast cancer feel empowered by how far cancer treatments have come:

  1. Options: Today, there are numerous approaches and treatment options for breast cancer. Doctors give you scenarios, information, and treatment options that will allow you to decide on the best course of action. You will have a say in choosing the treatment you think is best for your diagnosis.
  2. Opportunity: The greater Philadelphia area has many leading doctors and hospitals to choose from. Gather information, be picky, and seek a second (or third) opinion.
  3. Optimism: Listen to success stories. Go to support groups. Seek out data so you can empower yourself and others with optimism. Be proactive. Early detection is crucial when it comes to treatment, so schedule those mammograms!

Cancer treatment has come a long way from the “green banana days” when my grandfather was diagnosed. Luckily, we live during a time of hope — hope that is based on success, scientific advances, and data that shows cure and prolonged survival.

Jane Shihadeh

Jane B. Shihadeh, RN, OCN, is a graduate of The Bryn Mawr Hospital School of Nursing. She has spent her career working in oncology units and hospice/palliative care units. Currently, she is a Registered Nurse Health Coach in the FEP Case and Condition Management department at Independence Blue Cross. She has 3 adult children, Susan, Michael, and Robert, and a dog named Petey. In her spare time, Jane is a recreational chef, aspiring painter, dog lover, and proud member of the IBX Blue Crew and the Blue Streaks corporate running team.