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Questions to Ask After Being Diagnosed With Breast Cancer

Being diagnosed with breast cancer can be a life-changing experience for many women and their families. During this time, it is important that you gather as much information as possible, and keep a copy of your medical record. We encourage you to ask questions to your healthcare providers including: 

Surgical Oncologist

  • Why do I need this surgery?
  • What are my surgical options?
  • Is the procedure performed on an inpatient or outpatient basis?
  • Will I receive general or local anesthesia?
  • Do you recommend any treatments prior to surgery to shrink the tumor?
  • What is the recuperation process?
  • How long before I can resume my normal lifestyle?

Medical Oncologist

  • Please explain my diagnosis.
  • What stage is my disease?
  • What treatments are available and appropriate for my diagnosis?
  • What are the cure/remission rates for this treatment?
  • What results do you expect?
  • How will you know if the treatment is working?
  • Are there clinical trials available?
  • Could the recommended treatment cause a secondary problem (i.e., lung, heart, kidney, damage/disease, fertility problems)?

Radiation Oncologist

  • What is the goal of this treatment? Is it to eliminate cancer?
  • What are the chances that this treatment will prevent cancer from coming back?
  • What are the potential side effects of this treatment?
  • (long and short term side effects especially to the heart, lung, spinal cord, esophagus) Will I burn?
  • How can I ease the side effects?
  • How is the radiation planned in order to limit the radiation to the heart, lung, spinal cord, and other critical structures?
  • How often will I receive radiation therapy? What is the duration of each treatment, and what is the course of radiation?
  • If I decide to have reconstructive surgery, how would radiation therapy affect my treatment plan?
  • Will this treatment affect my fertility in the future?
  • Will I be radioactive and a danger to my loved ones?
  • How will this treatment affect my daily life? Will I be able to work, exercise, and perform my usual activities?
  • What is the time frame for me to make a decision?

Breast Reconstruction Specialist

  • Am I a candidate for breast reconstruction?
  • What types of breast reconstruction are available?
  • Which type(s) am I a candidate for?
  • What are the disadvantages and advantages of each type?
  • How will my other treatments (i.e., chemotherapy and radiation) affect my reconstruction?
  • Will the reconstruction match my other breast?
  • How will the reconstructed breast feel?
  • Will I need to have surgery again in the future?
  • How will weight change or pregnancies affect reconstruction surgery?
  • How and when can the nipple and areola be reconstructed?
  • What are the costs involved with breast reconstruction? Will my insurance cover the surgery?
  • Tell me about your training and experience with reconstruction. (Are you board certified? How many cases do you do a year?)