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Breast Cancer Basics
Early Detection
Diagnosis & Staging
Facing Breast Cancer
Planning Your Treatment
Treatment Options
Advanced Breast Cancer
A Guide For Your Partner


Questions to Ask Your Healthcare Providers


The following are questions gathered from the book. They are broken down by chapters with space for your own notes. Feel free to print out these pages, and give them to the person who will be accompanying you on your medical visits, to use as reminders of what you want to discuss.


Chapter 1: Facing Breast Cancer

• What should I tell my loved ones about my condition?

• Can you refer me to a counselor or to a support group specializing in breast cancer issues?

• Could you give me the names of specialists you think I should see? How about another set of names so I can choose the specialist(s) I like best?

• Is there a multidisciplinary breast cancer team in your facility?

• Tell me about your experience in dealing with breast cancer.

• Can you give me the name of a breast cancer expert who can give me a second opinion? Could you forward my chart, test results, and my biopsy slides to the doctor who is going to give me a second opinion?

• Where can I find more information about breast cancer? Do you, or your clinic or hospital, have a resource center? A library?

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Chapter 4: Surgery

Questions to Ask Your Surgeon:
• Is lumpectomy an option for me? Why or why not?

• Does a mastectomy decrease the chances of the cancer coming back?

• How will my breast look after the treatment? Can you show me pictures?

• Can you refer me to a plastic surgeon so I can discuss my reconstruction options?

• What kind of reconstruction procedure do you think would be best for me?

• Who can I talk to about my concerns about appearance, dating, pregnancy, etc?

• How much pain should I expect in the first few days after the procedure?

• How long before I can go back to my regular activities? Do I need to arrange to have someone help me with my daily activities?

• Do you recommend that I have a sentinel lymph node biopsy instead of a full axillary lymph node dissection? Why?

• Are you and your surgical team experienced in performing this procedure?

Questions to Ask Your Anesthesiologist:
• If I have general anesthesia, how long will it take me to get back to normal?

• What will I feel and hear if I have local anesthesia?

• Will you give me something to control the pain after I wake up from the anesthetic?

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Chapter 5: Reconstruction

Questions to Ask Your Plastic Surgeon:
• What type of reconstruction do you think is best for me?

• Will an implant make it more difficult to detect a local recurrence?

• What should I know about the “skin-sparing” mastectomy?

• What is the latest information regarding the safety of silicone implants?

• Can you show me pictures of reconstruction procedures you have done?

• Could I meet with some of those women so I can see and feel their breasts?

• Will my insurance pay for the reconstruction, even if it is done later? Will it pay for a breast prosthesis?

• Will I have a lot of pain? How can the pain be treated?

Questions to Ask Your Insurance Company:
• Does my policy cover the costs of the implant surgery, the implant anesthesia, and other related hospital costs? To what extent?

• Does it cover treatments for medical problems that may be caused by the implant or the reconstruction?

• Does it cover removal of the implants if this becomes necessary?

• If I choose to delay reconstruction and my company changes insurance plans, will I still be covered for breast reconstruction at a later date?

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Chapter 6: Radiation Therapy

• Why do I need radiation therapy?

• How is the radiation oncologist (physician) involved if the treatments are given by the therapists?

• How will I evaluate the effectiveness of the treatments?

• Which method is better for me, external beam or brachytherapy?

• Can I continue my usual work or exercise schedule?

• Can I arrange to be treated elsewhere if I am traveling?

• What side effects, if they occur, should I report immediately?

• Can I expose the treated area to the sun?

• Will I be able to conceive and bear a child after treatments?

• What is the difference in cost between brachytherapy and external beam?

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Chapter 7: Chemotherapy

• Do I need chemotherapy? Why?

• What are the benefits and risks of chemotherapy?

• How successful is this treatment for the type of cancer I have? How will you evaluate the effectiveness of the treatments?

• What side effects will I experience? Can I work while I’m having chemotherapy?

• Can I travel between treatments (short business or pleasure trips)? What other limitations can I expect?

• How can I manage nausea? Should I eat before I come for my treatments?

• Will I continue to have my menstrual periods? If not, when will they return?

• Should I use birth control? What type do you recommend?

• Will I be able to conceive and bear a child after treatments?

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Chapter 8: Hormone Therapy

• Did the tests on my tumor show that the cells were sensitive to hormones? (Estrogen Receptor Positive, or Progesterone Receptor Positive)

• Should I be treated with hormonal therapy or with chemotherapy, and why?

• How will it affect my chance to have children?

• How will it affect my sexual function?

• What side effects should I expect?

• Can I get pregnant while taking tamoxifen?

• What birth control method would be most suitable to my lifestyle?

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Chapter 9: Immunotherapy

• Is immunotherapy right for me?

• Would I benefit more from chemotherapy or hormonal therapy than immunotherapy?


Chapter 10: Complementary and Alternative Therapies

• What benefits can be expected from this therapy?

• What are the risks associated with this therapy?

• Do the known benefits outweigh the risks?

• What side effects can be expected?

• Will the therapy interfere with conventional treatment?

• Will the therapy be covered by health insurance?

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Chapter 11: DCIS

• What grade is my DCIS?

• How well will I do without radiation?

• Do you work with a team that includes a mammographer and an experienced pathologist?

• What is the downside of getting radiation after removal of the DCIS tumor?


Chapter 12: Clinical Trials

• How do I know the facility doing the study is reputable?

• Are there other centers doing the same research on the same drugs or methods?

• What is involved in terms of tests, treatments, and additional time commitments?

• What results can be reasonably expected in my particular case?

• What are the currently accepted treatments and how do they compare to the trial?

• How can I be sure that I won’t be under-treated, or miss the opportunity to be treated with established, conventional therapy?

• What would my financial commitment be and how can I cope with it?

• Will I need to be available for follow-up testing indefinitely?

• Can I travel, work, or move to another city?

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Chapter 13: Life After Cancer

• What can I do if I wake up at night worrying about my cancer?

• Will the cancer cells that may have spread to other parts of my body start to grow when I stop taking chemotherapy?

• Should my sisters get genetically tested?

• Shouldn’t we be doing more testing on me to make sure the cancer didn’t come back?

• What can I do about feeling excessively tired?

• Why have I lost interest in intimate relations with my partner?

• Why can’t I sleep or relax or feel interested in anything?

• Why can’t I stop feeling that I am going to die because of the cancer?

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Chapter 14: A Guide for Your Partner

• Do you have any pamphlets or videos about breast cancer we can take home and review?

• Who would you recommend we see for a second opinion?

• Can you put us in touch with women who you treated for breast cancer, and with their partners?

• Will there be loss of sensation in the breast area?

• Will chemotherapy cause her hair to fall out?

• Can we see pictures of what the surgical scar could look like?


Chapter 15: Advanced Breast Cancer

• Where did my cancer spread?

• If the tumor spread to other organs, is there any advantage to removing the tumor from the breast?

• Do you recommend treatment with chemotherapy or radiation to shrink the tumor in the breast?

• What tests need to be done on the tumor tissue to find the best treatment for it?

• What clinical trials would be best suited to my case?

• What support group should I join?

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