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Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Breast Cancer

Find out about symptoms and treatment options

The following is a list of questions for discussion with your doctor about breast cancer from Second Opinion. However, it is not a comprehensive list.

General questions about breast health and breast cancer detection:

  • Can you or someone in your office work with me to make sure I'm doing my breast self exams correctly?
  • Are there changes in my breasts I should expect when I'm close to my menstrual period?
  • What does it mean if I have breast pain?
  • What does it mean if I have nipple discharge or inflammation?
  • If I feel something during my self-exam, have breast pain or nipple discharge/inflammation, should I see you immediately or should I wait for a time to see if it resolves? If so, how long?
  • Are any medications I am taking likely to cause breast problems?
  • What are the pros and cons of having a mammogram at my age?
  • What is your recommendation on mammograms?

If you believe you're at high risk to get breast cancer:

  • Is there anything in my background that indicates

    ◦    I should have mammograms more often than your usual recommendations?
    ◦    I should see a specialist?

  • Where should I have my mammogram?
  • What do you recommend to women to prevent breast cancer?

If you have found a lump in your breast:

  • What tests should I have?
  • How likely is it that the lump is cancerous

If a biopsy is recommended:

  • What type of biopsy are you recommending and why?
  • What is involved in the type of biopsy you are recommending?

If you have a cancer diagnosis:

  • What is the stage of my cancer?
  • Has my cancer spread to lymph nodes or internal organs?
  • What are the results of my estrogen and progesterone tests?
  • What were the results of other tests (flow cytometry and other markers for tumor aggressiveness)?
  • What treatments are appropriate for me? What do you recommend? Why?
  • How often will I receive treatment?
  • How long will the treatment last?
  • How well has this option worked for others?
  • What are the potential benefits of this treatment?
  • What are the risks or side effects that I should expect?
  • If I experience side effects, how long will they last and how can they be managed?
  • Are the possible side effects of this treatment serious enough to interfere with continuing therapy?
  • How effective will breast reconstruction surgery be in my case if I need it or want it?
  • What should I do to get ready for treatment?
  • Should I follow a special diet?
  • Will I be able to have children after my treatment?
  • Will I go through menopause as a result of the treatment?
  • What are the chances of recurrence of my cancer with the treatment programs we have outlined?
  • What is my prognosis?

This article reprinted with permission from Second Opinion, a public television health program hosted by Dr. Peter Salgo and produced by WXXI (Rochester, NY),  West 175 and the University of Rochester Medical Center.

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