Questions To Ask After Diagnosis

Gathered and put this together from a couple different sites right after I was diagnosed. I have added a few that weren’t needed for me, but you might need to ask.

Questions to ask after getting a diagnosis

  • Do you have enough information to recommend a treatment plan for me? If not, what tests or procedures will be needed?

  • Who would you recommend for a second opinion?

  • When do I need to make a treatment decision?

  • Who will be part of my health care team, and what does each member do?

  • Who will lead my overall treatment?

  • What can I do to get ready for treatment?

  • If I am worried about managing the costs of cancer care, who can help me? Who can help me understand what aspects of my care are covered by my insurance?

  • Who can I call if I have a problem or question about my treatment?

  • Who do I call if I experience side effects?

  • Do you communicate with your patients by phone, email or with an electronic health record system?

  • If I have a strong family history of cancer; what is my chance of getting another cancer?

  • How does that change my treatment options?

  • Should I see a genetic counselor?

  • Do you have a social worker I can speak with?

  • What should I tell my employer, if anything, and what laws protect my rights as an employee?

Questions to ask your breast surgeon before your first surgery

  • Are you board-certified?

  • Do you specialize in this type of surgery?

  • How many operations like the one I am considering have you performed?

  • Do I need any other tests before this surgery?

  • Am I a candidate for a lumpectomy?

  • Do I need a mastectomy?

  • Is reconstruction (plastic surgery) an option for me?

  • What are the advantages and disadvantages?

  • Is it possible to avoid removing my nipple and areola?

  • Do the lymph nodes in my underarm need to be removed?

  • What is a sentinel lymph node biopsy? What are the benefits and risks? Would you recommend it for me?

  • What is the risk of lymphedema with a sentinel lymph node biopsy? With axillary lymph node dissection?

  • Should I consider chemotherapy before surgery?

  • Will I need radiation therapy after surgery? Does this affect my reconstruction options?

  • When do I need to make a decision about surgery?

  • What should I do to get ready for the operation?

  • Do you have recommendations on how to help me relax before surgery?

  • What medications and supplements should I stop taking?

  • Should I stop taking hormone replacement therapy?

  • If I take birth control pills, do I need to stop?

  • Will you describe exactly what you will do during this operation, and why?

  • What are the potential risks and side effects of this operation?

  • What can be done to ease side effects following surgery?

  • Does the hospital offer programs that help aid healing?

  • What can I expect regarding the operation?

    • Will I need to be admitted to a hospital for this operation? If so, how long will I stay in the hospital?

    • How long will my surgery take?

    • What type of anesthesia will I need for this operation?

    • How long do I have to wait for my preoperative test results? Do I call you, or does your office call me?

    • Will my tumor be saved? If so, where will it be stored? For how long? How can it be accessed in the future?

    • Will a pathologist examine the tissue and write a report? Who will explain that report to me?

    • What are the possible complications for this type of surgery?

    • How would I know if there is a problem?

    • How long will it take me to recover after the surgery?

    • When can I return to work and other daily activities?

    • Will I have stitches, staples, and/or bandages?

    • Will there be permanent effects from the surgery?

    • Where will the scar be, and what will it look like?

    • What type of clothes should I bring to go home it?

    • Will I need a special type of bra?

    • Are there instructions or post-operative care pamphlets I can take home with me?

    • When can I shower or bathe?

    • Will I need to have surgical drains? What does this mean?

    • How long will the surgical drains be in?

    • Do I need a nurse to visit my home after surgery? How is this arranged?

    • When will I need to return for a follow-up appointment?

    • Will I need help at home after the surgery?

    • What kind of pain will I be in afterwards?

    • Can you help me manage my pain?

    • When should I call your office if I experience any side effects?

Questions to ask your breast surgeon after your first surgery

  • What type of breast cancer do I have?

  • What is the size of the tumor?

  • What is the grade and stage of this disease?

  • What are my biomarkers? What do these mean?

  • What are the chances that the breast cancer will return?

  • Can you explain my pathology report (laboratory test results) to me?

  • Can I get a copy of my pathology report? How and when can I get these results?

  • What is the hormone receptor status of my cancer? What does it mean?

  • What is the HER2 status of my cancer? What does it mean?

  • How do these factors affect my treatment options and long-term outlook/prognosis?

  • Was all of the cancer removed during the surgery?

  • How many lymph nodes were removed?

  • Has the cancer spread to any of the lymph nodes? If so, how many?

  • Has the cancer spread to anywhere else in my body?

  • Do I need additional surgery?

  • If I have a mastectomy without reconstruction, where can I get a prosthesis? Is this covered by my insurance?

  • Will my arm be affected by surgery? For how long?

  • Will I need physical therapy for my arm?

  • When will I be able to work and/or return to my normal routine?

  • Are there any activities I should avoid?

  • Will my surgeon communicate with my medical oncologist or radiation oncologist?

  • Do you recommend any genetic testing of the tumor?

Questions to ask your medical oncologist

  • How much experience do you have in treating breast cancer?

  • What type of breast cancer do I have?

  • What is the size of my tumor?

  • What is the grade and stage of this disease? What does this mean?

  • What is the hormone status of my tumor? What does this mean?

  • What is my HER2 status? What does this mean?

  • Do you recommend any genomic testing of the tumor?

  • What about tests to predict the risk of recurrence?

  • Do you share electronic records with my surgeon?

  • Do I need more tests to find out if there is cancer anywhere else in my body?

  • Do you recommend genetic testing and seeing a genetic counselor?

  • Do I need other treatment, such as chemotherapy or hormonal therapy?

  • What is chemotherapy?

  • What is hormonal (endocrine) therapy?

  • What is targeted therapy?

  • What are my treatment options?

  • What clinical trials are available for me? Where are they located, and how do I find out more about them?

  • How will each treatment option benefit me? What are the risks?

  • What is the expected timeline for each treatment option?

  • What treatment plan do you recommend for me? Why?

  • When do I need to make a decision about starting additional treatment?

  • Should I consider my family’s history of breast cancer in making my decision about treatment?

  • How does having reached (or not reached) menopause affect my treatment options?

  • What is my prognosis?

  • What can I do to get ready for this treatment?

  • Should I bring someone with me to my chemotherapy treatment?

  • Is chemotherapy given through the vein or as a pill, and will I need anti-nausea medications?

  • What are the potential side effects of each treatment?

  • Will I lose my hair, and can I do anything to prevent hair loss?

  • What can be done to ease side effects?

  • How will this treatment affect my daily life?

  • Will I be able to work, exercise, and perform my usual activities?

  • Will this treatment affect my sex life? If so, how and for how long? Is there anything I can do to prevent or treat these effects?

  • Will this treatment affect my ability to have children (fertility)?

  • Should I talk with a fertility specialist before treatment begins?

  • Are there other treatments available that do not pose as high a risk to my fertility but are equally effective?

  • How much time do I have before I have to start additional treatment?

  • Can I become pregnant while receiving chemotherapy or radiation therapy?

  • What happens if I become pregnant during treatment?

  • Is there a risk of birth defects and/or harm to the fetus and/or to me?

  • How long should I wait after cancer treatment before trying to have a child?

  • What lifestyle changes should I consider making during my treatment?

  • Do you recommend any nutritional supplements or changes to my diet?

  • Can I take herbal supplements during my treatment? Is there any risk?

  • If I have a strong family history of cancer, what is my chance of getting another cancer?

  • Do I need to have my ovaries removed, also?

  • Can you suggest a mental health professional I can see if I start to feel overwhelmed, depressed, or distressed?

Questions to ask your 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?

  • If the cancer comes back, can I get radiation therapy again?

  • How often will I receive radiation therapy?

  • Are there alternatives to the recommended treatment?

  • How much time will each treatment take?

  • Can I bring someone with me to treatment?

  • Will each treatment be the same?

  • Does the radiation dose or area treated change throughout the period of treatment?

  • What can I do to get ready for this treatment?

  • Are there recommendations on what clothes to wear or leave behind?

  • How will this treatment affect my daily life?

  • Will I be able to work, exercise, and perform my usual activities?

  • Will you describe what I will experience when I receive radiation therapy?

  • Will it hurt or cause me discomfort during the treatment?

  • What are the potential side effects of this treatment?

  • How can I ease side effects?

  • How will my skin be affected during radiation therapy?

  • What skin products can I use each day?

  • Do I need to be concerned about sun exposure?

  • Should I avoid certain foods, vitamins, or supplements?

  • Should I avoid using deodorant or antiperspirant during treatment?

  • What are the possible long-term effects of this treatment?

  • If I decide to have reconstructive surgery, how would that affect my treatment plan?

  • Will this treatment affect my fertility?

  • Are there special services for patients receiving radiation therapy, such as certain parking spaces or parking rates?

Questions to ask your plastic surgeon

  • Are you board-certified?

  • Is breast reconstruction your specialty?

  • How many breast reconstruction surgeries do you perform in a year?

  • What should I consider before deciding to have breast reconstruction?

  • What types of breast reconstruction options are available to me?

  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of each type?

  • When can I have my reconstruction?

  • Will I need surgery to the non-reconstructed breast to make the breasts match?

  • Will I need to coordinate this with my breast surgeon?

  • If I have radiation therapy, does that change my options for reconstruction?

  • What are tissue expanders, and will I need them?

  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of each reconstruction option?

  • Does it matter if I sleep on my stomach? Will it be uncomfortable?

  • Which type of implants do you recommend (saline or silicone), and why? What size?

  • If you use tissue from another part of my body to rebuild my breast(s), where do you recommend it be taken from, and why?

  • If I have a mastectomy with implant reconstruction, can I also have a nipple reconstruction? If so, when?

  • What are the costs involved with breast reconstruction?

  • What is covered by my insurance?

  • Is surgery on the non-reconstructed breast covered by insurance?

  • How long will the surgery take?

  • What do I need to do to prepare for the surgery?

  • What type of anesthesia will I need for this operation?

  • What can I expect after the operation?

    • How long will I stay in the hospital?

    • What are the possible complications for this type of surgery?

    • How long will it take me to recover?

    • When can I resume my normal activities, including exercise?

    • Will I need to have surgical drains? What does this mean?

    • Will I have stitches, staples, and/or bandages?

    • Will there be a scar or other permanent effects from the surgery?

    • Are there instructions or post-operative care pamphlets I can take home with me?

    • When will I need to return for a follow-up appointment?

    • What type of results can I expect?

  • Are there photographs of reconstructed breasts that I can view?

  • How will the reconstructed breast feel to the touch?

  • What type of sensation (feeling) will the reconstructed breast have?

  • What changes to the reconstructed breast can I expect over time?

  • Will I need to have surgery again in the future (for example, to replace implants over time)?

  • Do I need mammograms or MRI tests after a breast reconstruction?

  • What can I expect if my weight changes?

  • What if I become pregnant in the future?

After treatment

  • Will I need a special diet after treatment?
  • Are there any limits on what I can do?
  • Am I at risk for lymphedema?
  • What can I do to reduce my risk for lymphedema?
  • What should I do if I notice swelling in my arm?
  • What other symptoms should I watch for?
  • What kind of exercise should I do now?
  • What type of follow-up will I need after treatment?
  • How often will I need to have follow-up exams, blood test or imaging test?
  • How will we know if the cancer has come back? What should I watch for?
  • What will my options be if the cancer comes back?

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