Any cancer diagnosis, including breast cancer, is frightening and almost always unexpected. Typically, patients leave their first appointment feeling bewildered, unable to absorb the information they were given, and unsure of what questions to ask.
Because of this, I always provide patients a list of possible questions they may ask their doctor to start the conversation about what to do next at the end of every presentation I make.
The goal is to give patients a sense of empowerment so they can start to believe their medical journey is manageable.
This template typically provides patients with a solid basis, while more queries may crop up later, particularly following appointments with other doctors. (You also got a sneak peek at a condensed version of the answers.)
What Treatment Options Do I Have?
Most patients with a recent diagnosis of breast cancer can anticipate at least two treatments: surgery and radiation. More often than not, I discover that patients desire to know what order their treatments will take place.
Will I require more body or breast imaging?
Patients can anticipate a breast MRI and potentially a PET/CT scan to determine the severity of the disease, depending on its stage and its extent.
Can I still save my breasts?
We consider both the size of the tumour and the size of the tumour in relation to the patient’s breast size when attempting to decide if a patient is a candidate for breast conservation.
What Do the Markers on My Breast Cancer Tumour Mean?
We examine the oestrogen, progesterone, and HER2 tumour receptors in each and every breast cancer. If they are positive, new therapeutic options, such as immunotherapy and hormone blockers, are available to lower the chance of recurrence. Breast cancer is referred to as triple negative if all tests are negative; it is typically more aggressive and will need chemotherapy.
What Results Will I Get if I Choose to Do Nothing?
A tiny percentage of patients may never experience breast cancer progression. However, the cancer will enlarge and progress in stage in the vast majority of people. Therefore, getting treatment is highly advised.
What Happens After Surgery Regarding Breast Cancer Screening and Surveillance?
Following surgery, routine breast imaging will not be provided to patients who have had mastectomys. In these situations, a physical examination is the best tool for finding new problems. For the first one to two years following surgery, I advise patients who have undergone breast conservation surgery to get a mammography of the breast that underwent surgery every six months. The unaffected breast continues to be examined annually.
Would you be able to describe the non-surgical components of my treatment plan (radiation, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy)?
Before surgery, a patient can need chemotherapy, depending on the size of their tumour and whether they have positive lymph nodes. Not all people require chemotherapy before to surgery. Radiation therapy is almost always necessary for individuals who choose to save their breast in order to lower the likelihood of recurrence. Even some mastectomy patients will require radiation treatment.
What Consequences Will My Treatments Have?
Pain, seroma (a collection of normal fluid), numbness, potential infection or bleeding, and occasionally an imbalance in breast size are among side effects of breast surgery. After radiation, patients could experience rib pain, breast swelling, or skin changes including darkening or redness. Radiation pneumonitis and alterations to the heart (for radiation to the left side) are less frequent adverse reactions. Chemotherapy side effects include, among others, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, appetite loss, diarrhoea, numbness in the limbs (neuropathy), and hair loss.
Does Health Insurance Cover My Breast Cancer Diagnosis?
Insurance does, in fact, pay for breast reconstruction as well as other therapies for breast cancer.
I’ve decided I want to get a mastectomy. Will my insurance cover breast reconstruction?
What Treatment Options Do I Have if I Don’t Have Health Insurance?
When a patient is diagnosed with breast or gynecologic cancer, they frequently qualify for emergency Medicaid. Additionally, several hospital networks have monies set aside to assist in the care of cancer patients. You might need to inquire about resources available from your doctor or nurse navigator.
Should I Get My DNA Tested?
The American Society of Breast Surgeons currently advises all patients receiving a new breast cancer diagnosis to undergo genetic testing.
You’ll have a lot of other queries as you progress through treatment. These inquiries ought to serve as a guide for you and give you self-assurance as you begin the procedure.