Make Your List and Check It Twice: Questions to Ask About Breast Cancer (Printable List Included)
04 Nov 2017
Dealing with breast cancer near the holidays can seem overwhelming. Being proactive and having a good list of questions for your physician and surgeon can help. But what if the only question that comes to mind is “why?” Or if your reaction is akin to a deer in the headlights and you just freeze? To help make sure you don’t forget anything, we’ve compiled a list of questions to ask about breast cancer.
After You Find an Abnormality
Not every breast abnormality means you have cancer. In fact, many lumps in the breast end up being benign. But there are still several questions you should ask at this point.
- What type of biopsy will I have?
- Why do I need the type of biopsy that you are recommending?
- Who will perform the biopsy?
- How long will my biopsy take?
- Will I have a scar after a biopsy?
- When can I start my normal activities?
- What side effects will I experience?
- When will I get my results?
If You’re Diagnosed
Unfortunately, your biopsy results have revealed that you have breast cancer. Although this time is very stressful for you, learning as much as you can gives you power over your cancer.
- What type of breast cancer do I have?
- Is my breast cancer less or more aggressive?
- How big is the cancer and where is it?
- Has my breast cancer spread to my other organs or lymph nodes?
- What stage do I have?
- Based on my breast cancer, what are my chances of survival?
- Will treatment affect my survival?
- Can I participate in a clinical trial?
- Will my insurance cover my treatment?
- How do I manage the financial burden of breast cancer?
- How can I cope with my emotions about breast cancer?
Choosing Your Treatment
It’s likely that your physician already has an idea of what treatment you need. But there may be other options available to you. You should learn about these options and choose the best plan for you.
- What treatment do you suggest I have?
- What experience with treating this type of breast cancer do you have?
- Do I have other treatment options? What are they?
- When does my treatment have to start?
- How long will treatment last?
- Which long-term and short-term side effects result from treatment?
- Will my breast cancer return after this treatment?
- What must I do if the cancer does return?
- What can I do about transportation to and from treatment?
- How do I get ready for treatment?
- Should I make lifestyle changes?
- How will treatment affect my breast’s appearance and feel?
- Is my treatment working?
- How can I manage the side effects?
- Is there any way for me to reach you on weekends or night?
- What exercise should I do?
- Can I exercise during treatment? If so, what can I do?
- Do I need blood tests, imaging scans, or other special tests?
- Should I change my diet to improve my results?
- Is there a risk I will develop lymphedema? How can I lower this risk?
- What symptoms of lymphedema should I check for?
- How frequently do I need follow-up exams?
If You Need Surgery
Depending on the treatment plan you’ve chosen, you may undergo breast surgery. To ensure things go as well as possible, ask plenty of questions both before and after your procedure.
- What type of surgery do I need?
- What side effects will I experience after surgery?
- Is it better to get a mastectomy or lumpectomy?
- How do I choose between the two?
- Will my lymph nodes be removed?
- How long do I have to stay in the hospital?
- Will I need a drain after surgery?
- How big of a scar will I have?
- When can I return to my normal activities?
- Will my healing be affected by ethnicity?
- Do I need a breast form? If so, where can I get one?
- Can I get breast reconstruction?
- How familiar with this procedure is my breast surgeon?
- Are they board-certified?
- What types of clothes should I wear to the procedure?
If You Want Breast Reconstruction
- What types of breast reconstruction can I get?
- Should I get implant-based reconstruction or autologous reconstruction?
- How are these procedures performed?
- Is immediate or delayed breast reconstruction better?
- Can reconstruction make it more difficult to spot recurrence?
- How long will my recovery be?
- What side effects may I experience after reconstruction?
- Is my plastic surgeon experienced with this type of procedure?
- Are they board-certified?
- What exercises can I do after surgery?
- Will my insurance cover breast reconstruction?
There are, of course, a lot more questions to ask. But these questions should cover most of the basics.
Do not be afraid to ask anything that comes to your mind. There is no such thing as a stupid question. Remember, the more you learn about your breast cancer and treatment, the more control you will feel over your diagnosis.
More Questions to Ask About Breast Cancer
For even more questions, cancer.net maintains a pretty long list for your entire healthcare team. Komen also has lists of questions that you can print out and answer. These make it even easier to keep track of your breast cancer treatment.
Also, check out our FAQ section to find answers to many of the questions you may have.
Looking for more helpful information about breast cancer and breast reconstruction? For information on a specific topic, use our search box. Or join our conversation on Facebook and check out our Pinterest and Instagram sites. Our podcast series may also be helpful: here at itunes, here at Google Play, or here at Stitcher. Take care!