Hearing “You’ve got breast cancer” can be a shock to the system. Once you come to terms with the diagnosis, it’s time to get prepared. It’s time to learn more about your prognosis and medical options.
Here are 10 questions to ask your doctor if you’re diagnosed with breast cancer.
1) What type of breast cancer do I have?
There isn’t just one type of breast cancer. There are different kinds and they have different treatment options.
2) Is my tumor invasive or noninvasive?
Invasive breast tumors have already started growing in neighboring healthy breast tissues. Noninvasive ones stay in the milk ducts. Noninvasive is the earliest stage of breast cancer, according to CancerCare.
3) What's the stage of my cancer?
Cancer staging is a universal way to categorize the severity of someone’s cancer. Stages 0 through IV are directly related to the tumor’s size and how much it has metastasized.
Higher stages equal a larger tumor and cancer cells that are more widely distributed, according to Cleveland Clinic. The cancer’s stage determines how to treat it.
4) What grade is my tumor?
Looking at tumor cells under a microscope determines its grade. The grade depends on how different it looks from healthy cells. The higher the grade, the more likely the cancer will spread.
5) Is the cancer in my lymph nodes?
When breast cancer appears in lymph nodes, it generally determines how severe the cancer is. Cleveland Clinic stated, “It can mean more aggressive treatment options.”
6) What is my hormone receptor status?
Some breast tumors grow because of estrogen. They absorb the hormone via estrogen or progesterone receptors. Tumor cells with a lot of these receptors are called estrogen-receptor-positive or progesterone-receptor-positive (ER/PR-positive).
ER/PR-positive receptors use estrogen to power the tumor’s growth. On the flip side, there are cancer cells which are ER-/PR-negative. They can tune out any messages from the hormone.
7) What is my recommended treatment plan?
Your treatment plan correlates to the above information about your cancer. Different options include chemotherapy, hormone blockers, radiation therapy, targeted treatments or surgery.
8) Could clinical trials be an option for me?
A well done clinical trial could turn out to be a great treatment option for any stage of breast cancer, according to Cleveland Clinic.
9) How can I learn more about my disease?
MD Anderson Cancer Center recommended asking your doctor these questions to learn more:
- What terms and/or words should I use when seeking information about my cancer?
- What resources do you recommend so I can learn more?
10) What support services are available for me?
Doctors understand that a breast cancer diagnosis is much more than tumors and treatment options. It can be very emotional and many people need help dealing with it.
Reviewed October 6, 2016
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith
"14 Questions About Your Breast Cancer Diagnosis - Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic." Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic. N.p., 2015. Web. 03 Oct. 2016.
"Breast Cancer Diagnosis | CancerCare." CancerCare. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Oct. 2016.
Catallo, Rosemary. "Newly Diagnosed Cancer Patients: Questions to Ask Your Health Care Team." Cancer Treatment & Cancer Research. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Oct. 2016.
Nesmith, Susannah. "7 Questions to Ask the Doctor If You've Learned You Have Breast Cancer." Miamiherald. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Oct. 2016.