Questions to Ask an Oncologist about Breast Cancer

Questions to Ask an Oncologist about Breast Cancer

Questions to ask an Oncologist about Breast Cancer

Cancer! That word is chilling enough to drive a stake through your heart. That single word is sufficient to turn even the strong and brave-hearted into weak people with wobbly legs. But why? Why should that single word have this tremendous impact on you? Well, cancer has that effect on everyone - and there are very few people who are brave enough not to feel the impact of that word.

When your are informed that you have breast cancer, you feel as if someone has jerked the carpet from under your feet. You almost go into a state of shock and are totally unaware of your surroundings. When the doctor says "You have breast cancer," your mind starts reeling and everything else becomes blank. It's very difficult to focus on what your doctor is saying as all your thoughts are totally disorganized.

When you come to your senses, the only question that you seem to be asking yourself is " Oh! Why me, why me?" But, some things are inevitable, and you most certainly cannot reverse things. Now, the most important thing that you should focus on is what to ask your doctor.

But, First Let's See What is Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer develops in the breast tissue, in the milk ducts or glands. The cancer begins with the formation of a small tumor or lump, or as calcium deposits and then spreads within the breast to lymph nodes, or through the blood stream to other organs. The tumor can grow and spread to other tissues surrounding the breast - skin or chest wall. Some lumps are benign, i.e., non-cancerous while others are. The only way you can differentiate between the two is through biopsy.

Once the cancer starts spreading, treatment becomes difficult if not impossible. But effective treatment can often control the disease for a number of years. We now have highly sophisticated screening procedures and treatment methods where early detection is possible and treatment can be started. And, the good news is that we have more number of breast cancer survivors.

What are the Questions That You Should Ask When you Meet Your Doctor/Oncologist?

  • What type of breast cancer do I have?
  • What is the size of the tumor?
  • At what stage is my cancer?
  • Will I have cancer anywhere else in my body?
  • Do I need surgery?
  • What are the other treatments that I need?
  • What are the treatment options that I have?
  • What are the risks of these treatments?
  • How long will I have to undergo treatment?
  • Does my reaching/not reaching menopause affect my treatment?
  • Should I bring someone along with me for my treatment?
  • What are the side effects for this treatment?
  • Will the treatment affect my daily life and activities?
  • Will it affect my job?
  • When should I start my cancer therapy?
  • Will this treatment affect my child-bearing abilities?
  • Can I become pregnant while receiving chemotherapy or radiation therapy?
  • Is there any risk of birth defect or harm to the fetus?
  • How long should I wait for a child after the treatment?
  • What are the diet restrictions that I should follow?
  • Should I take any dietary supplements?
  • After the treatment what follow-up care should I take?
  • How frequently should I come for follow up?
  • What are the long-term effects of this treatment?

Women who are in their child-bearing age and who are diagnosed with breast cancer will definitely be concerned about their ability to have children in the future. You are advised to talk to a fertility specialist before commencing the cancer treatment.

Looking at the sunnier side of things, breast cancer is definitely treatable if detected early. Women with breast cancer can, now, look forward to a longer lease of happy and carefree life.

At you can research and choose an experienced medical oncologist who treats all types of cancers including breast cancer.

Reviewed By:

Dr. Kaushal M. Bhavsar (MBBS, MD)

Assistant Professor in Pulmonary Medicine, GMERS Medical College, Ahmedabad