What should I ask my doctor about breast cancer treatment?

Stuart A. Linder, MD
Plastic Surgery
Important questions to ask your breast cancer specialist will include:

-Stage and Grade of Tumor
-Type of cancer
-Treatment options including surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy
-Lymph node dissection required?
-Genetic testing (BRCA-gene)
-Risks and benefits of treatment options
-Rate of Recurrence
-Reconstructive options (Plastic surgery)
-Risk to Contralateral Breast 
It is important for you to have frank, open discussions with your cancer care team. Don't be afraid to ask questions, no matter how minor you might think they are. Some questions to consider:
• What type of breast cancer do I have?

• How does this affect my treatment options and prognosis?

• Has my cancer spread to lymph nodes or internal organs?

• What is the stage of my cancer and how does it affect my treatment options and prognosis?

• Are there other tests that need to be done before we can decide on treatment?

• Should I consider genetic testing?

• Should I think about taking part in a clinical trial?

• What treatments are appropriate for me?

• What do you recommend? Why?

• What are the risks and side effects that I should expect?

• How effective will breast reconstruction surgery be if I need or want it?

• What are the pros and cons of having it done right away or waiting until later?

• What will my breasts look and feel like after my treatment?

• Will I have normal sensation in them?

• How long will treatment last?

• What will it involve?

• Where will it be done?

• What should I do to get ready for treatment?

• Will I need a blood transfusion?

• Should I follow a special diet or make other lifestyle changes?

• What are the chances my cancer will come back with the treatment plans we have discussed?

• What would we do if that happens?

• Will I go through menopause as a result of the treatment?

• Will I be able to have children after my treatment?

• What type of follow-up will I need after treatment?

Be sure to write down any questions that occur to you that are not on this list. For instance, you might want specific information about recovery times so that you can plan your work schedule. Or you may want to ask about second opinions. Taking another person and/or a tape recorder to the appointment can be helpful. Collecting copies of your medical records, pathology reports, and radiology reports may be useful in case you wish to seek a second opinion at a later time.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.