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Decoding Your Breast Cancer Diagnosis

From the Show: Health Radio
Summary: The first step after getting a breast cancer diagnosis is finding out how to proceed. Decoding the diagnosis will advise what happens next.
Air Date: 6/17/16
Duration: 10
Host: Melanie Cole, MS
Guest Bio: Karen Tedesco, MD & Allison Boyanovski
Dr. Karen TedescoKaren Tedesco, MD, is a medical oncologist at New York Oncology Hematology. She leads the Hereditary Cancer Risk Assessment Program and serves as vice president of the NYOH Board of Directors. Dr. Tedesco is a member of the U.S. Oncology Breast Cancer Research Committee and the U.S. Oncology Genetic Risk Evaluation and Testing Steering Committee. She completed her medical degree at the SUNY Health Science Center at Syracuse and completed her internship and residency at the University of Michigan and her fellowship with Vanderbilt University. Dr. Tedesco is married to a gastroenterologist and has three children.

Allison BoyanovskiAt age 34 and a new mother, Allison Boyanovski was shocked when she discovered a lump on her right breast.  As a healthcare professional herself (Allison works at Jersey City Medical Center), she knew to monitor the lump and made plans to visit her doctor as soon as she could. After receiving a diagnosis with HER2-positive* early breast cancer, Allison says her professional experience helped her to understand and chart a path forward. Allison started a regimen of HER2-targeted therapies prior to undergoing a surgery to remove the tumor and continued treatment through January of 2015. She is proud of her optimism and of “not wasting any time or giving up,” but at the same time, she says tells others facing the same situation that it’s okay “to be sad, mad and disappointed when you get the diagnosis.”

Today, she enjoys spending time cooking and catching up with family and is excited to participate in the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides for Breast Cancer walk for a second time.
    Decoding Your Breast Cancer Diagnosis
    It is tough to face a breast cancer diagnosis.

    But, it's important to navigate treatment as soon as possible.

    The medical oncologist will go through the terminology, size of tumor and lymph node status. "Infiltrating" or "invasive" mean the breast cancer cells have grown beyond the duct and have invaded other tissue. "In situ," "pre-cancerous" and "stage zero" mean the cancer cells are confined to the ducts. In situ conveys the breast cancer has been caught early and has low likelihood of spreading to other areas of the breast. "Receptor status" determines what kind of treatment may work best for the patient. The grade of the tumor describes how different the cells appear from regular breast tissue cells; low meaning they look more like regular breast cells, high meaning they look abnormal.

    Most cancers in the breast or underarm area can be treated with lumpectomy or mastectomy. If it is more advanced, radiation may be recommended. Chemotherapy or hormonal therapy may be necessary.

    Having a strong support system will help the patient get through this ordeal. If you don't have family and friends nearby, find a community support group and rely on the folks in your doctor's office. They want to see you succeed.

    Medical oncologist Dr. Karen Tedesco and breast cancer survivor Allison Boyanovski share how to get through a breast cancer diagnosis.