Questions to Ask Your Health Care Team

Here are suggested questions to ask when you are first diagnosed. Write these down and take them with you when you see your doctor.

Cancer Diagnosis

  • Would you please write down the specific kind of breast cancer I have?
  • Do my lymph nodes show any signs of cancer?
  • What stage of breast cancer do I have?
  • What are the chances that my cancer has spread beyond my breast?
  • What are the advantages to being treated at a specialized cancer center?
  • What other tumor markers has my breast cancer been tested for (e.g. estrogen and progesterone hormone receptors)?

Genetic Testing

  • Should I see a genetic counselor?
  • Is there any chance that I inherited this cancer from my family?
  • Are my other family members at increased risk for breast cancer?
  • Are there other cancers that I may be at increased risk for?

For more information about genetic testing, visit: www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/Genetic-Testing-for-Breast-and-Ovarian-Cancer-Risk

Cancer Treatment

  • When will my treatment or treatments start? When will it end?
  • What are my treatment choices?
  • How often will I have treatments?
  • How long will each treatment last?
  • Where will I go for my treatment?
  • Will I be able to drive home afterward?
  • What side effects may I get?
  • Are there medications or other ways to help me manage side effects?
  • What can I do to take care of myself before, during, and after treatment?
  • Are there any long-term effects that I should expect?
  • Who will be in charge of my treatment?

Questions You May Want to Ask Your Surgeon About Breast Cancer Surgery:

  • Is breast conservation therapy an option for me? What operation do you recommend for me? Why?
  • How large will my scar be? Where will it be?
  • How much breast tissue will be removed?
  • Will a sentinel node biopsy be done to see if I need more lymph nodes removed with an axillary node dissection? Why or why not?
  • Will my lymph nodes be removed? Why or why not?
  • Will I need to stay in the hospital? If so, for how long?
  • Is there someone I can talk with who has had the same kind of surgery I'll be having?
  • What activities should I avoid? When can I return to my regular activities?
  • Will my surgical area need special care?
  • Will I go home with a surgical drain, sutures, clips that need special care and removal?
  • What should I do if I experience side effects? Who should I call?

Questions You May Want to Ask Your Health Care Team About Chemotherapy:

  • Do I need chemotherapy?
  • How successful is chemotherapy for the type of cancer that I have?
  • Can I work while I'm having chemotherapy?
  • How can I prevent or manage nausea?
  • Will I lose my hair?
  • Will I stop menstruating?
  • Will it affect my ability to have a child?

Questions You May Want to Ask Your Health Care Team About Hormonal Therapy:

  • Will hormonal therapy help me?
  • How successful is hormonal therapy for the type of cancer that I have?
  • Is there anything that will help me deal with side effects?
  • How long will I need to be on hormonal therapy?

Questions You May Want to Ask Your Health Care Team About Targeted Therapy:

  • Will treatment with a targeted therapy help me?
  • How successful is targeted therapy for the type of cancer that I have?
  • Is there anything that will help me deal with side effects?

Questions You May Want to Ask Your Health Care Team About Radiation Therapy:

  • Do I need radiation therapy?
  • How successful is radiation therapy for the type of cancer that I have?
  • How will radiation be given?
  • How will treatment affect my skin?
  • How can I manage skin discomfort during radiation therapy?

Questions You May Want to Ask a Plastic Surgeon About Breast Reconstruction:

  • Which type of surgery will give me the best result? What other options do I have?
  • How many surgeries will I need?
  • Are breast implants safe?
  • How many breast reconstructions have you done?
  • Can I see pictures of women you have reconstructed? Can I contact any of them?
  • How long will my recovery take?
  • What activities should I avoid? When can I return to my regular activities?

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