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Questions To Ask Your Doctor About Mammography and Breast Cancer

" Ask a family member or friend to go with you to the doctor, take notes, ask more questions, and help you recall what was said. "

Many people feel intimidated in the doctor's office - they're not sure what questions to ask, or forget their questions when they are ready to ask them. "Questions to Ask Your Doctor" worksheets are designed to be used as hands on materials that women may bring to a doctor's office to remind them of important questions to ask.


Tips for Using Questions To Ask Your Doctor Worksheets

Remember these tips for using "Questions To Ask Your Doctor" sheets:

Print at least one copy of the sheet and bring it with you to your doctor's office. If you do not have a printer, write each of the questions down, and leave room below each question where you can write an answer or other notes.

Don't forget a pen or pencil for taking notes.

Ask a family member or friend to go with you to the doctor, take notes, ask more questions, and help you recall what was said.

Add or delete questions depending on your own situation. See the full menu of "Questions To Ask Your Doctor" worksheets to find more lists of questions you may be able to ask during the same doctor visit.

Take time to write your notes. Ask your doctor to clarify concepts or define words that you don't understand, and to check your notes to make sure they are correct and complete.

Organize your notes once you get home. Have another blank copy of your worksheet(s) available so you can rewrite any shorthand you may have used. This will also help you organize your thoughts and take any additional notes from what you remember from your conversation.


Questions to Ask Your Doctor...


...About Breast Changes and Mammograms...

1. How often should I schedule appointments with you?

2. How can I tell which lumps are not normal?

3. What kind of lumps do I have?

4. Do I need to have a mammogram? When? How often? If not, why not?

5. Is there anything in my background that indicates I should have mammograms more often than your usual recommendations?

6. Where should I have my mammogram?

7. Did you receive the results of my mammogram? What does that report mean?


...If You Have A Lump In Your Breast...

1. Will you refer me to a certified mammography facility for a mammogram?

2. Can this lump be aspirated (fluid or cells removed with a needle)?

3. Will you refer me to a doctor who specializes in breast problems for further tests and/or treatment?


...To prepare for a mammogram and the steps that will follow

1. Is there anything I should do to prepare for my mammogram?

2. What will the mammogram show?

3. Who gets the report of my mammogram? Can it also be sent to other doctors who treat me?

4. How long will it take to receive the mammography report?

5. What are the next steps if my mammogram finds a problem?


...Before a Breast Biopsy or Needle Aspiration

*Understanding the Procedure

1. What type of biopsy will I have? Why? Will the entire lump be removed or just part of it?

2. Can the needle be aspirated (the fluid drained or a small number of cells removed) with a needle? How reliable is a needle biopsy?

3. How long will the biopsy or aspiration take?

4. Will I be awake during the biopsy or aspiration and can it be done on an outpatient basis?

*Preparing for Biopsy Results

1. If I do have cancer, what other tests should I have?

2. Will estrogen or progesterone receptor tests be done on the biopsied tissue you remove? What will these tests tell you? Will other special tests (flow cytometry and other markers for tumor aggressiveness) be done on the tissue?

3. Will you do a two-step procedure? (With a two step procedure, the patient is informed of treatment options after the biopsy results are available. Any further surgery is done as a separate procedure.)

4. How visible will the biopsy scar be?

5. Are there any after affects of biopsy? If so, what are they?

6. After the biopsy, how soon will I know if I have cancer or not?

7. After a biopsy, if cancer is found, how much time can I take to decide what type of treatment to have?


...When Breast Cancer Is Diagnosed...

*Understanding Your Diagnosis

1. What did my biopsy or needle aspiration show?

2. What kind of breast cancer do I have?

3. What were the results of my estrogen and progesterone tests? What were the results of other tests (flow cytometry and other markers for tumor aggressiveness)?

4. What tests will I have before surgery to see if the cancer has spread to other organs (liver, lungs, bones)?

*Determining the Best Treatment

1. What are my treatment options? What procedure are you recommending for me and why?

2. What are the potential risks and benefits of these procedures?

3. (Ask this question if tests were not done during the biopsy.) Will estrogen and progesterone receptor tests be done on the tissue removed during surgery? What will these tests tell you? Will other special tests (flow cytometry and other markers of tumor aggressiveness) be done on the tissue?

4. What is your opinion about breast-conserving surgery (lumpectomy) followed by radiation therapy? Am I a candidate for this type of treatment?

5. Will I need additional treatment with radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and/or hormonal therapy following my surgery? If so, can you refer me to a medical oncologist?

6. Can breast reconstruction surgery be done at the time of the surgery, as well as later? Would you recommend it for me?

7. What potential risks and benefits are involved?

8. If I choose not to have reconstruction, how good are currently available breast prostheses?

9. How long do I have to make a treatment decision?

10. What is a clinical trial? Is there a clinical trial that is enrolling patients with my type of breast cancer? If so, how can I learn more?

11. Could you recommend a breast cancer specialist for a second opinion?

*Preparing for the Results of Your Surgery

1. Where will the surgical scar(s) be?

2. What side effects should I expect after the operation?

3. How should I expect to feel after the operation?


...After Breast Surgery...

*Playing an Active Role in Recovery

1. Are there special exercises I should be doing? What type do you recommend? How long should I continue them?

2. Are there any special precautions I should take (for example, if lymph nodes were removed, should I avoid getting shots in that arm or shaving under that arm?)

3. When will I be able to get back to my normal routine?

4. What can I do to ensure a safe recovery?

5. What problems, specifically, should I report to you?

*Preparing for Followup Visits to Your Doctor

1. If additional therapy is being considered, can you refer me to a medical oncologist?

2. When the additional therapy is completed, who will be responsible for my followup care? How often should I return for an exam? For lab tests or x-rays?

3. What tests will be done at these times?

4. What will the tests tell us?


...About Radiation Therapy...

*Understanding the Reasons for Radiation Therapy

1. Why is radiation therapy being recommended?

2. Do you think that the size, location, and type of breast cancer I have will respond to radiation therapy?

*Preparing for Treatment

1. How long will each treatment take? How long will the whole series last?

2. How soon should treatment begin?

3. Who will be responsible for my radiation treatments? Who will administer them?

4. Where will these treatments be done?

5. Can I come alone or should a friend or relative accompany me?

*Preparing for the Effects of Treatment on Your Lifestyle

1. What side effects should I expect and how long might they last?

2. What are the risks of this treatment?

3. What are the precautions or prohibitions during treatment? After treatment? (Skin creams, lotion, underarm shaving, etc.)

4. Can I continue normal activities (work, sex, sports, etc.) during treatment? After treatment?

5. Will the costs of the treatment be covered by my insurance?

6. How often are checkups and tests required after treatment is completed?

7. Will other therapies be needed?


...About Breast Cancer Chemotherapy...

*Understanding the Reason for Chemotherapy

1. Why is chemotherapy indicated in my case?

2. What is the significance of lymph node involvement?

3. How many of my lymph nodes are involved?

4. If my lymph nodes are not involved, should chemotherapy or hormone therapy still be considered?

*Understanding Drugs and Their Effects

1. What drugs will I be taking?

2. Why have you chosen these particular drugs for me?

3. What are the drugs supposed to do?

4. What are the short and long-term risks involved?

5. What are the possible side effects of this type of chemotherapy? Are they permanent?

6. Which side effects should I report to the doctor immediately?

*Preparing for Treatment and Followup

1. How soon should the chemotherapy be started?

2. How and where will the chemotherapy be given?

3. How long will each treatment take? How long will the whole series last?

4. Can I continue to work, exercise, etc, During these treatments?

5. Will I need to be admitted to the hospital during the course of my chemotherapy?

6. Can I come alone for treatments or should I have a friend or relative accompany me?

7. Are there special precautions I should take while on chemotherapy or afterwards?

8. Will treatments be covered by my health insurance?

9. If I lose my hair, will the cost of a wig be covered by my health insurance?

10. When the treatments are completed, how often will I need to be seen by the oncologist?


...About Hormone Therapy...

*Understanding Hormone Treatment

1. Which hormones are you recommending for me and why?

2. What are the hormones supposed to do?

3. What are the short and long-term side effects of this hormone treatment?

*Preparing for Hormone Treatment

1. How soon should the hormone therapy be started? How long will I be taking the hormones?

2. In what form and how often will the treatment be given?

3. Will I be given the hormone therapy along with other forms of treatment?

4. Are the costs of hormone treatment covered by my health insurance?


...About Reconstructive Breast Surgery...

Understanding Reconstructive Surgery

1. What are the types of reconstructive surgery?

2. What type is best for me and why?

3. What chance is there of rejection and/or infection of any implant?

4. Are there any other risks or side effects to consider?

5. What can be done if the operation is unsuccessful?

6. When is the best time for me to have reconstruction - at the same time as the mastectomy? Some time after surgery? After chemotherapy?

7. If I do not choose reconstruction, what prostheses, or breast forms, are available?

*Preparing for reconstruction and followup

1. How many operations are needed? How long a hospital stay is necessary for each? How much time is needed for recovery after that? Are there any medications to avoid before surgery?

2. Is there much pain after surgery? For how long?

3. Are special bras needed after surgery? Where do I purchase them?

4. How can I expect the reconstruction to look and feel? How will the reconstructed breast compare in appearance with my healthy breast? Will anything need to be done to the healthy breast?

5. Will I be able to detect a possible recurrence after reconstructive surgery?

6. Will my health insurance cover this type of surgery?


Source: National Cancer Institute - 2000

related info
National Cancer Institute

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