Questions to Ask Breast Cancer Specialists

Questions for Specific Specialists

There also are specific questions you might want to ask the different specialists. They include:

  • Questions for the medical oncologist
    1. What type of breast cancer do I have, and what is my prognosis?
    2. What is the size and stage of the cancer?
    3. Is there anything else I need to know about my cancer, such as the results of hormone or genetic tests of the cancer?
    4. What are my options for treatment?
    5. What kind of treatment timeline are we looking at?
    6. Does my family history of breast cancer have any implications for my treatment choices?
    7. What are the side effects of chemotherapy or hormone therapy?
    8. Will I lose my hair?
    9. Will I be able to continue working?
    10. Will this treatment affect my sex life or libido? If so, how?
    11. What other medications will I need to take to make my treatment more comfortable, safer, and more effective?
    12. Will the treatment affect my fertility, menstruation or menopause?
    13. Will I need someone to accompany me to treatments?
    14. How often will I go for treatment, and how long will treatment last?

  • Questions for the radiation oncologist
    1. How does radiation therapy work?
    2. How often will I come for treatment, and how long will each session last?
    3. What can I do to prepare for treatment?
    4. What are the side effects of radiation therapy?
    5. Will it hurt? If so, what can I do about that?
    6. Will this affect my skin? If so, is there anything I can do to protect my skin?
    7. Are there any products I should not use during treatment (such as deodorant, perfume, body sprays, moisturizers, make-up)?
    8. How will radiation affect my fertility?
    9. Does radiation treatment affect my choices for reconstruction after surgery?
    10. Are there any long-term effects of radiation treatment that I should know about, including any increased risk of other cancers?

  • Questions for the surgical oncologist
    1. Is a lumpectomy an option for me, or do I need a mastectomy?
    2. Should I go through chemotherapy before the surgery?
    3. Will you need to remove any lymph nodes?
    4. Are there any other tests I need to have before the surgery?
    5. How do I prepare for the surgery?
    6. How is the procedure done?
    7. What is the recovery time?
    8. Will I have staples or stitches?
    9. What if you are not able to remove all of the cancer during this surgery?
    10. Will you have to do more than one procedure?
    11. What are my options for reconstruction and scar minimization? Do I need to talk to another specialist about these issues?
    12. What kind of drugs will be used for anesthesia?
    13. How long does it take to recover and get back to a normal routine?
    14. Will I need physical therapy?
    15. Will I need any blood during the procedure? If so, can I give blood in advance?
    16. What is lymphedema, and how can I prevent it?
    17. When do I need to make a decision?

SOURCES: American Society of Clinical Oncology (

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Written by Madeline Roberts Vann, MPH
Reviewed by Susan L. Luedke, MD
St. Louis Cancer & Breast Institute
St. Louis University Medical Center

Last updated September 2008