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The First 48 Hours: The Ten Most Important Questions to Ask Your Doctor

Whether it’s your first appointment or you’re seeking a second opinion, here’s what to ask about your biopsy results.

By Beth Brophy

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Once you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, you’ll probably meet with a number of cancer specialists — oncological surgeons, plastic surgeons, and oncologists, depending on your diagnosis. One important thing to keep in mind a this point: when you meet with your doctors after the biopsy, don’t go alone. You need to bring three things:

• A trusted relative or friend—an extra set of ears can help you figure out your options and will help catch any details you miss.

• A tape recorder so you can replay the session later.

• A list of questions to ask your doctor.

Below you’ll find a good starter list of questions to ask your doctor. Be sure to add your own before and during the appointment.

1. What kind of breast cancer do I have? How many tumors do I have, and how large are they?

Read an overview of breast cancer.

Read an overview of the types of breast cancer.

2. What stage cancer do I have? Has the cancer spread to my lymph nodes? (Your doctor may not be able to tell you until after surgery.)

Learn about treatments for breast cancer stages 0 through 5

3. Is my family history relevant to my diagnosis?

Learn about breast cancer diagnosis.

Read about breast cancer risk factors, including inherited genetic factors and family history.  

4. How abnormal do the cancer cells appear -- what is my tumor grade? And what is the tumor’s histology -- the type and arrangement of tumor cell, when it is looked at under a microscope? Is the tumor estrogen receptive?

Learn about breast cancer prognosis.

Find out about how your estrogen receptor status can affect your breast cancer treatment options. 

5. What are the more and less aggressive treatment options available?

Read an overview of breast cancer treatment methods.

6. Will I need a mastectomy? If I do, what are the risks and benefits of immediate reconstruction?

Learn more about mastectomy.

View an illustrated guide to breast reconstruction options

7. Will I need chemotherapy or radiation, or both? How often will I receive it and how is it given? What side effects can I expect? Should I undergo these treatments before surgery?

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