Breast Cancer Diagnosis: How Do Patients React?

Lisa Schneider-Cipriano talks about the day she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and explains her thoughts and feelings in that moment. She describes her reaction as “disbelief,” which Dr. Harness says is a common reaction. Watch this video to learn more about how patients typically react to a breast cancer diagnosis.

Jay Harness, MD: Lisa did you have the same sort of “shock and awe” experience?

Lisa Schneider: Oh absolutely. Like I always say, it’s that deer in the headlights, and you’re stunned. And so many people want to offer suggestions and advice to you, and yet you’re just kind of staring at them in disbelief that it’s actually happening to you. And now you have to find a team, and what’s my next step. And until you settle down from the news that’ s just been given to you. I remember, we were out of town. We were up in the mountains of Arizona fishing as a family and all of a sudden I get the phone call, “Yeah I’m sorry it was breast cancer,” and I’m sitting there by myself going oh my gosh.

Jay Harness, MD: There’s a couple really critical points that I want to get across to our listening audience. First of all, just like Anne Marie said, despite whatever your preparation is, you’re not actually ready for the real answer. Okay, that’s number one. Number two: always have people with you. Anne Marie, the way you did it with your husband there and your mom and others, because what typically happens is your mind is going blank at that moment. We’ll talk about chemo brain later on, but this is called the “shock and awe” phase. It’s almost like you can’t take the words in. It’s hard for the people who are with you, but they’re able to absorb way more than what you’re able to absorb, and the typical surgeons like my colleagues and myself, want to start sharing information with you. And your story about your mom is perfect, because that brain is not quite in shock and awe and all of a sudden the questions start coming in. I just want to share with our audience that this is a very very typical situation. Lisa I will tell you, I hate giving people diagnosis over the phone, because I really want them to be here with me so I can interact with them. So for phase one, that was really critically important.