Being diagnosed with breast cancer can be overwhelming and emotional. A million thoughts run through your mind and it can be difficult to figure out what questions you should ask or what next steps you should take.

Preparing for your first appointment

  1. Write down a list of questions
  2. Bring a relative or friend to be part of the meeting with you and take notes
  3. Ask for copies of lab results, pathology tests and any other evaluations
  4. When scheduling your appointment, ask if there is a breast cancer navigator available to you

Five questions to ask your breast cancer specialist

  1. What kind of breast cancer do I have? Where exactly is it located?
  2. Is the tumor considered slow-growing or aggressive, invasive or non-invasive? Has it spread? This is determined by a sentinel lymph node biopsy—a surgical procedure that helps detect cancer in the lymph nodes and determines how many are affected.
  3. Find more questions and answers from Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute, the global cancer institute of HCA.
  4. What stage is it?
    • Stage 0—Also called in situ, this means the cancer has not spread to other tissues.
    • Stage I—The cancer has spread beyond the lobe or duct and invaded nearby tissue, but is no larger than two centimeters in size.
    • Stage II—The cancer 1) is less than two centimeters but has spread to the lymph nodes under the arm (axillary nodes); 2) is between two and five centimeters and may or may not have spread to the axillary nodes; or 3) is larger than five centimeters but has not spread to the axillary nodes.
    • Stage III—The tumor is large (more than five centimeters in size) and the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and possibly surrounding areas.
    • Stage IV—Cancer has spread beyond the breast and lymph nodes to other parts of the body.
  5. What other tests may be performed?
    • CT scan of the chest and abdomen
    • MRI scan of the breast, chest, abdomen and pelvis (hip area)
    • Bone scan to see if cancer has spread to the bones
    • Positron emission tomography–CT (PET/CT)—to help detect distant spread of tumor, especially for locally advanced disease
  6. What are my treatment options?
    • Surgery
    • Radiation therapy
    • Chemotherapy
    • Hormonal therapy
    • Biological therapy