Moments That Count has been developed and funded by Novartis Pharmaceuticals UK Limited and is intended for a UK general public audience.

Coping emotionally

Handling a breast cancer diagnosis

Finding a support group

Receiving a breast cancer diagnosis is an emotional time. Surrounding yourself with a good support group and trying to learn as much as you can in order to better understand your breast cancer diagnosis can be helpful.

Telling your loved ones

Everybody handles their diagnosis differently and it is important to remember there is no right or wrong way to handle the news. Partners, friends and family might share some of these feelings too, so it can be helpful to discuss it with them when you feel ready.

There is a vast amount of available support which your healthcare professionals can arrange for you and your loved ones, including counselling, social work, meetings with a psychologist and more.

Know you are unique

By gaining a better understanding of your prognosis, stage and type of cancer, you can keep up to date with your available options and how they aim to help you on your treatment journey.

Every case of breast cancer is unique, which means treatments and side effects can vary greatly between people. Some patients find it helps them to build a better understanding of their condition in order to know why they are being recommended certain treatments.

Click below to view the full series of psychologist videos. This link will take you off the Moments That Count website and direct you towards another Novartis owned website.

Routes to diagnosis

Breast cancer diagnosis techniques

Your doctor or nurse will examine your breasts and the lymph nodes in your armpits and
around your neck.

Pre-diagnosis tests
After your examination, your doctor or nurse will tell you what tests you need:


An x-ray of your breasts. This is used to help diagnose breast cancer and other breast

Breast ultrasound¹

Uses soundwaves to create a picture of your breast tissue. You will also have an ultrasound
scan of the lymph nodes in your armpit.

Breast biopsy¹

During a breast biopsy, the doctor removes a small piece of tissue or cells from the lump or
abnormal area. The sample is checked for cancer cells. There are different ways of taking a
breast biopsy.

Post-diagnosis tests
If the biopsy results show there are breast cancer cells, you will need further tests.

Blood test¹

A blood test is carried out to check your general health and how well your kidneys and liver
are working.

Chest x-ray¹

A chest x-ray is carried out to check your lungs and heart.

MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan¹

An MRI scan uses magnetism to create a detailed image of your body. This could be used to
find out the size of the cancer and help your healthcare team decide which operation you

CT scan¹

A CT scan uses a series of x-rays to build up a 3D picture of the inside of your body.

Bone scan¹

A bone scan will show any abnormal areas of bone. A small amount of radioactive substance is injected into a vein, and the scan will be done after a 2/3 hour wait.

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Helping your doctors select a treatment

What are biomarkers?

Biomarkers are a biological molecule found in the blood and other body fluids or tissues. They are a sign of a normal or abnormal process, or of a condition or disease. These may be used to see how well your body is responding to treatment for diseases. Important biomarkers in breast cancer include hormone receptors (HRs) and the protein HER2.

What are biomarkers used for?

Testing your biomarkers can help you and your healthcare team to select an appropriate treatment. Treatments like targeted therapies and immunotherapies may only work for people who have specific biomarkers; therefore, your biomarkers are tested in order to determine the best course of action.

To learn more about specific biomarkers and genetic mutations click below to download our guide.

Diagnostic and cancer care professionals

Your multidisciplinary team (MDT)

Throughout your journey, you will meet lots of different healthcare professionals who each fulfil a role in your care. Once your diagnosis is confirmed, you will be introduced to a specialist team, which is known as a multidisciplinary team or MDT.

If you would like to read more about the type of support you should be receiving for your cancer care, including the healthcare professionals that should be assigned to you, visit Macmillan Cancer Support.

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Specialises in breast cancer surgery and may do reconstruction surgery.

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Plastic surgeon²

Specialises in breast reconstruction.

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Cancer doctor (oncologist)²

Specialises in cancer treatments.

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Specialist nurse²

Gives information and support.

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Specialises in x-rays and scans.

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Specialises in studying tissue samples and cells.

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Patients support groups²

While not a part of your professional MDT, there are plenty of other groups you can talk to. Patient support groups are a fantastic place to find people in a similar situation to yourself to share support, knowledge, tips, advice and stories. Learn more about patient support groups here.

Accepting your long-term condition

During this short video, Alistair delves into how to embrace life and accept a long-term diagnosis. He discusses how acceptance involves stopping the struggle with aspects of life we cannot control.

Take all the time you need

Tips and support for speaking to friends and family

Something as simple as talking about your breast cancer diagnosis can be a great emotional help. At times, you might feel like you don’t know what to say or how to say it. Other times you may not want to talk about it at all. Whether or not you choose to speak about what you are going through, you may find it helpful to surround yourself with a breast cancer support group who are willing to listen when you feel ready.

How can I tell my friends and family?

Breaking the news to your friends and family can lead to a difficult and emotional conversation. Doing so when you feel ready and in a way that suits you may be of help.

Below are a few recommendations:

  • Let the person you are sharing your diagnosis with know you would like to have a focused conversation.
  • Switching off all devices (mobile phones, televisions) may help everybody involved remain focused.
  • Speak at your own pace and take your time.

Click below to download our guide on talking to others for more suggestions.

It can feel like learning a new language

Dealing with medical jargon

Throughout your appointments and treatments, you may come across some medical language which can sometimes be confusing and difficult to understand.

If there is anything you have not understood throughout your breast cancer journey, you may want to share this with your healthcare professional. Breast cancer and its treatments can be complex, and your healthcare team is there to build you have a better understanding. Taking notes home with you to discuss with your breast cancer support group can be helpful too.

To find out more, click the button below.

diagnosis image book reading
You know you best

Make your next appointment count

Your healthcare team is your best resource throughout your treatment. Talk openly and often with them about your doubts, questions and concerns. We have developed a guide to support you in having these conversations with some tips to help you find the information you need.

appointment guide

Learn more about...

breast cancer treatment

Breast cancer treatment

Understand breast cancer treatments and how your treatment will be decided.

quality of life

Quality of life with breast cancer

Find out what you can do in your daily life to maintain a healthy body and mind.

coping with breast cancer

Coping with breast cancer

There is lots of help out there for you and your support Group. You are not alone.


  1. Macmillan Cancer Support. Breast Cancer. Available online at: [Last accessed: October 2023]
  2. Macmillan Cancer Support. Multidisciplinary team (MDT) for breast cancer. Available online at: [Last accessed: October 2023]

UK | December 2023 | 284562





Moments That Count has been developed and funded by Novartis Pharmaceuticals UK Limited. It has been created in collaboration with secondary breast cancer patients whose knowledge and insights have informed the content and direction for the campaign.

This website is part of a programme that is funded by Novartis Pharmaceuticals UK Limited. Novartis Pharmaceuticals UK Limited is a private limited liability company registered in England and Wales under number 119006. Registered office 2nd Floor, The WestWorks Building, White City Place, 195 Wood Lane, London, W12 7FQ. Use of this website is governed by our Terms of Use and the Cookies and Privacy Policy.

Reporting side-effects
If you get side effects with any medication you are taking, talk to your doctor, pharmacist or nurse. This includes any possible side effects not listed in the information leaflet that comes in the pack. You can report side effects via the Yellow Card Scheme at By reporting side effects, you can help provide more information on the safety of your medication.

©2024 Novartis Pharmaceuticals UK Ltd - UK | January 2024 | 124182-3 This site is intended for a UK general public audience.