From the moment that you received your breast cancer diagnosis, you probably felt like your whole life had been flipped upside down. If you are anything like me, initially in those first few moments you felt totally numb and in disbelief.
Many questions began to race through your head. Is this accurate? Do they need to repeat the biopsy? Will I just need surgery? Has it spread? What does this diagnosis really mean? While your mind is still processing everything, you may have that initial doctors appointment and not know what questions you should ask.
First of all you should know these are all normal feelings. Almost everyone I have spoken to regarding this subject went through these same emotions. Because you will feel overwhelmed, here are a few important questions to ask initially to help you better understand your diagnosis and treatment plan.
8 Important Questions to Ask Your Physician After Breast Cancer Diagnosis;
1-Is my cancer invasive or in situ?
Invasive cancer have infiltrated outside of the milk duct or lobes, while in situ is still contained within ducts or lobes.
2-What are the results of estrogen, progesterone, and HER2 testing?
These are tests that are performed on the tumor to tell if it is being fed by hormones or contain the protein HER2. Women naturally make the hormones estrogen and progesterone. HER2 positive tumors grow and spread faster than other tumors. Your treatment options will be dependent on these results and aimed toward the hormones and/or HER2 receptors.
3-Will I need to see a medical oncologist?
The medical oncologist is the doctor who will manage your chemotherapy. Chemotherapy may or may not be a part of your treatment plan.
4-Will my treatment include chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy can include oral or IV treatments. Chemo can be given on different schedules, such as weekly, biweekly, or every 3 weeks. The number of chemo treatments needed will depend on your cancer type and the chemo medication that is ordered.
5-Are there any signs of lymph node involvement?
These are the lymph nodes under your arm on the side of the affected breast. They can sometimes be felt manually by the doctor or may only be detected by ultrasound. This typically applies to invasive cancers only. Radiation treatment may be recommended if cancer has spread to your lymph nodes.
6-Will my treatment include radiation?
Radiation is typically done in addition to surgery, and is also indicated when lymph nodes are involved.
7-Will genetic testing be ordered ?
The genetic testing for breast cancer is called BRCA testing. This testing is helpful in determining your risk for reoccurrence of breast cancer, or possibility of passing the gene mutation on to your children (female and male).
8-What stage is my breast cancer?
Breast cancer stages range from 0-4. You will find that there are several factors that determine the stage of your cancer. This includes the size of your tumor, whether your lymph nodes are involved and whether there is metastasis, or spread of the cancer.
Because you may be flooded with emotions after your breast cancer diagnosis it may be hard to know what to ask. Consequently, there may be other questions that you may want to ask your physician. You should make a list of all the questions to ask your physician as they come up. It is also a good idea to have another person with you to help remember the answers that your physician gives to each of these questions. My husband attended every appointment with me, and often times we would still walked away and had different memories of what the doctor said.
Finally, remember that “cancer” is a word not a sentence. While you may feel discouraged and overwhelmed at first, it is especially important for you to learn as much as possible about your cancer and treatment recommendations. Having adequate information will help to decreases your anxiety, therefor also decreasing the fear of the unknown.
Good luck on your journey.