Finding out that you have breast cancer can feel overwhelming — even earth-shattering. It’s entirely expected that you would have many questions about how your life is going to change, what your treatment is going to look like, and what the next steps are.
Some of your questions may have a more straightforward answer your doctor can provide, like “What’s the stage of the cancer?” or “Do I need to talk to a specialist?”
Other questions can be harder to get an answer to, like “How’s this diagnosis going to affect me emotionally?” or “How will my body react to treatment?”
Some questions may not have an answer at all, like “Why is this happening to me?”
Sometimes it can feel as though there’s so much new uncertainty that you don’t even know where to start, or what questions you should be asking.
The Bezzy BC community knows exactly what it’s like to navigate a new breast cancer diagnosis. Five community members shared the questions they feel are most important to ask your doctor about.
“My advice is to not be shy speaking up, and remember that your choices matter. Find a doctor who listens and works with you.
If I had had the opportunity to earlier, I would’ve asked about things like checking for lymph node spread and how, if it does spread to my lymph nodes, it would impact my treatment. I would also have inquired about the need for a care team and why it can be beneficial.” — Smacsham
“I would ask about what I can be doing now to prepare for next steps. For example, if I’m going to have radiation, is there anything I can do now to help down the road like skin care options (lotion versus no lotion) or diet tips that can help make radiation go more smoothly?
Like most people, I’m pretty motivated to do what I can to help myself. It would make me feel better and more proactive to use any waiting time before treatment to get set up for the next stages of the journey.” — KellyMPLS
“I would ask about the results of any testing I have had done. For example, when lymph nodes are removed and tested and the results come back negative [or] “all clear,” why do I need radiation?
Also, if a genetic test was negative, what do we know about what could have caused my breast cancer?” — Godsgirl
“I would ask for a detailed explanation of the oncotype score, the reason why it is done, and what it means for my treatment. I would also ask about the rationale for getting, or not getting, chemotherapy and the rationale for getting a lumpectomy versus a mastectomy.
Finally, I would also ask about life after active treatment, how to navigate the “new normal,” and how to find support dealing with it. I felt like the long-term implications of treatment were never fully explained to me.” — Anonymous
“Even though you are repeatedly told not to use Dr. Google, you are never given the whole picture unless you ask the right questions.
There are so many different types of treatment out there, but I was only offered what my cancer center and doctor had available. I had to do my own research and ask a lot of questions.
I also had to find a center out of town to get the hypofractionation radiation that I preferred after doing research. The facility in my city did not offer it. If I hadn’t researched and asked for specific therapies, I wouldn’t have known that they were available.” — Islandgirl13
Having a doctor who you feel comfortable approaching with questions is important. If you feel like your doctor isn’t able to provide enough information to help you feel confident in your decisions, getting a second opinion can be a great idea.
A doctor can be a great resource for insight about treatment, diagnosis, and symptoms. However, there are many aspects of life with breast cancer that even the best doctors may not be able to address.
For these questions — the ones about the impact breast cancer may have on your mental health, or about how to talk to your loved ones about your diagnosis, or about how your relationships may be affected — it can be helpful to hear from people who have been in your shoes.
The Bezzy BC community is here to listen, share stories, and provide support at every step along the way.
Article originally appeared on September 22, 2021 on Bezzy’s sister site, Healthline. Last fact checked on September 19, 2021.