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Questions to Ask

Questions to Ask My Doctor About Breast Cancer


Being told you have breast cancer can be scary and stressful. You probably have a lot of questions and concerns. Learning about the disease, how it’s treated, and how this information might apply to you is a lot to do on your own. You might need some help. Your American Cancer Society can give you general information about this disease and its treatment, but your doctor is the best source of information about your situation.

It’s important for you to be able to talk frankly and openly with your cancer care team. They want to answer all of your questions, no matter how minor they might seem to you. But it helps if you know what to ask. Here are some questions that you can use to help you better understand breast cancer and your options. Don’t be afraid to take notes and tell the doctors or nurses when you don’t understand what they’re saying. 

The questions are grouped by where you are in the process of cancer treatment. Not all of these questions will apply to you, but they should help get you started. 

For more information on breast cancer please contact your American Cancer Society toll free at 1-800-227-2345 or online at


When you’re told you have breast cancer


  • Exactly what type of breast cancer do I have?   

  • How do I get a copy of my pathology report?  

  • Has the cancer spread to my lymph nodes or other organs?  

  • What’s the cancer’s stage? What does that mean? 

  • How does this affect my treatment options and long-term outcome (prognosis)?  

  • What are my chances of survival, based on my cancer as you see it?  

  • How much experience do you have treating this type of cancer? 

  • Will I need other tests before we can decide on treatment? 

  • What are my treatment choices? 

  • What treatment do you recommend and why?  

  • What’s the goal of my treatment?

  • Should I think about genetic testing?

  • Should I get a second opinion? How do I do that? 

  • Should I think about taking part in a clinical trial?



When deciding on a treatment plan


  • What are the chances the cancer will come back after this treatment?

  • What would we do if the treatment doesn’t work or if the cancer comes back?

  • Will I go through menopause as a result of the treatment?

  • Will I be able to have children after treatment? Would I be able to breastfeed?

  • How much will I have to pay for treatment? Will my insurance cover any of it?

  • How long will treatment last? What will it involve?

  • Where will treatment be done?

  • What risks and side effects should I expect?

  • What can I do to reduce the side effects of the treatment?

  • How will treatment affect my daily activities?

  • Will I be able to work during treatment?

  • Will I lose my hair? If so, what can I do about it?

  • If treatment includes surgery:


  • Tell me about breast reconstruction. Is breast reconstruction surgery an option if I want it? What would it involve in my case? 

  • Can I have reconstruction at the same time as the surgery to remove the cancer? What are the pros and cons of having it done right away or waiting until later?

  • Will you have to take out lymph nodes? 

  • Will the treatment hurt? Will I have any scars?


Before treatment


  1. Will I need a breast form (prosthesis), and if so, where can I get one?

  2. What should I do to get ready for treatment?

  3. Will I need blood transfusions?

  4. Should I change what I eat or make other lifestyle changes?



During treatment


  1. Once you have decided on treatment, you’ll need to know what to expect and what to look for. All of these questions may not apply to you, but asking the ones that do may be helpful.

  2. How will we know if the treatment is working?

  3. Is there anything I can do to help manage side effects?

  4. What symptoms or side effects should I tell you about right away?

  5. How can I reach you on nights, holidays, or weekends?

  6. Do I need to change what I eat during treatment?

  7. Are there any limits on what I can do?

  8. What kind of exercise should I do, and how often?

  9. Can you suggest a mental health professional I can see if I start to feel overwhelmed, depressed, or distressed?

  10. Will I need special tests, such as imaging scans or blood tests, and how often?



After treatment


  1. Do I need a special diet after treatment?

  2. Are there any limits on what I can do?

  3. Am I at risk for lymphedema?

  4. What symptoms should I watch for? What should I do if I notice swelling?

  5. What can I do to reduce my risk for lymphedema?

  6. What kind of exercise should I do now?

  7. What type of follow-up will I need after treatment?

  8. How often will I need to have follow-up exams and imaging tests?

  9. What blood tests will I need?

  10. How will I know if the cancer has come back? What should I watch for?

  11. What are my options if the cancer comes back?



Other questions I need answered


Along with the sample questions you’ve been given, be sure to ask any others you might have. For instance, you might need to know more about how long it will take to recover from surgery so you can plan your work schedule. Or, you may need to ask about insurance coverage or how you can get help paying for treatment.



Last Medical Review: 9/20/2019 Last Revised: 9/20/2019 2019 Copyright American Cancer Society



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