Not all oncologists will provide the same information or have experience working with young women so it is important to educate yourself and be prepared for your appointments whenever possible. Here you will find suggestions and a list of questions to ask your oncologist after receiving a breast cancer diagnosis.
I remember very little from my initial consultation with my oncologist expect being in absolute shock! During the appointment my oncologist examined my pathology report and treatment regimen and I was provided a booklet with contact information and a list of common side effects of treatment.
It was difficult to process all the information I was receiving or ask the right questions which is why I am thankful that I was able to have someone with me at the time.
Having children in the future was a big concern for me so I knew to ask about fertility preservations options prior to treatment but I was blown away by the number of women I have met who were not informed about all options. For this reason I have prepared a list of suggestions and questions to help you cover important topics with your oncologist.
One thing I would wish I had done differently is seek out a second opinion from another oncologist to see if they agreed with 1) my diagnose and 2) my treatment regimen. I did not doubt my oncologist however seeking out a second option would have given me greater peace of mind during my cancer treatment.
Have a Support Person
Have a family member or friend accompany you when you meet your oncologist. If you are not able to have a support person with you, have them listen in on the phone. I suggest you have them take notes for you.
Discuss your needs and expectations with your support person before the appointment.
Do you need them to participate in the discussion? Would you prefer if they were a silent support? Should they take notes for you?
Prepare a List of Questions
If possible, write out a list of questions to guide you during your consultation with your oncologist. You will always have more questions but arriving with a list of questions can make the information you are receiving a little easy to understand.
10 Questions To Ask Your Oncologist
1) What type and stage of breast cancer do I have? What does this mean?
Ask for this to be explained in simple terms. If you still don’t understand ask for it to be explained differently until you have a good understanding.
Has it reached lymph nodes? What does this mean?
Is it invasive? Is it aggressive?
What were the test results for hormone receptors?
What is the long-term prognosis of this cancer returning?
2) What treatment options do you recommend and WHY?
Is this regime common?
Could I benefit from hormone blockers?
Do I need to begin treatment right away?
Are there other options to treat my cancer?
Would I be suited for clinical trials?
Is there something I can do to prepare for treatment?
Is there anything I can do to make treatment more successful (i.e. Should I exercise?)
Should I avoid anything during treatment (e.g. foods or products)?
If it were you, would you accept this treatment
3) How will we know treatment is successful?
How will success be measured? i.e. scans, blood test etc.)
4) What should I expect during treatment?
How will treatment impact my day-today?
What side effects are common?
Which are cause for concern? What should I do if I experience these side effects?
5) What are the risks associated with this treatment?
What are the short term risks?
What are the long term risks? (i.e. secondary cancers)
6) What can I expect during an infusion (or radiation session)?
How long will each session take?
Can I drive myself home after each treatment?
Will I need a port or can I go without one?
7) Can you refer me to another oncologist for a second opinion?
Do you work with or can you recommend an integrative oncologist or other care professionals?
Working with a care time can help you gain a comprehensive understanding of your health and a second opinion may provide you with extra peace of mind.
8) Will treatment impact my fertility and sexual health?
Can treatment cause premature menopause?
Can you refer me to a clinic for fertility preservation?
*Ask about medications to protect your reproductive organs during treatment.
How can this effect my sexual health short term and long term?
9) What supports and services are available to me and my family?
What can I do if I’m having difficulty accepting my diagnosis?*Ask about Financial support, counselling, social work, transportation, wigs etc.
*Ask for a prescription for a medial wig
10) Should I have genetic testing done?
Having a BRCA gene mutation can make you more susceptible to other related cancers so it is important to understand your risks. Ask about the BRCA gene and if your family members should be referred for genetic testing.
These questions are intended to be a guide. It is important to do your own research and be a strong advocate when working with medical professionals. If you are not confident in the information or care you are receiving, or simply need more information, speak up!
Have suggestions of your own? Leave a comment below!