Key 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 records!

Surgical Oncologist

Why do I need this surgery?
What are 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 the cancer?
What are the chances that this treatment will prevent the 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 the 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 preform my usual activities?
What is the time frame for me to make a decision?

Breast Reconstruction Questions

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 the reconstruction?
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?)