As of 2020, there are over 3.5 million women in the US with a history of breast cancer. That includes women currently undergoing cancer treatment and those who’ve already finished treatment.
Discovering that you have breast cancer can be a terrifying and overwhelming experience. It’s a life-altering moment that can make it difficult to think clearly. But once the initial shock dissipates, you can make decisions that set you on the right path to full recovery.
In this comprehensive guide, we outline five essential questions that can help you get useful information from your physician about breast cancer surgery. Read on to learn more.
Where Do You Start?
Before making any decisions, gather all the relevant information regarding your treatment options. If you opt for breast cancer surgery, which is one of the standard breast cancer treatments, it’s important to meet your potential surgeon for consultation before the operation.
The first consultation meeting is typically very long, as lots of information is presented. It’s best to bring a friend or family member with you for support. You need someone who can act as a second set of ears and your advocate during this deeply emotional time.
Besides bringing a loved one with you, it’s important to prepare a list of relevant questions to ask your surgeon regarding your situation. The answers you get can make the decision-making process easier for you. Remember that not all breast cancer cases are the same, and determining the ideal breast cancer treatment approach for you will largely depend on your case’s unique characteristics.
The questions you ask may address anything that you feel is important or relevant to you, such as what the benefits of surgery are and why the doctor recommends it.
Understanding Breast Cancer
Before we address the questions you should ask your doctor before the surgery, it may be helpful to understand what breast cancer is. In its basic form, breast cancer refers to the uncontrolled growth of cells in the breast tissue.
These cells can spread from their origin to the rest of the body. The malignant cells typically grow and multiply rapidly and in a disorderly fashion, leading to tumors.
Currently, breast cancer is the most prevalent form of cancer among women. It’s estimated that one in eight women will suffer breast cancer in their lifetime. The disease can also affect men, but at a tenth of the rate at which it affects women.
Questions to Ask Before Breast Cancer Surgery
The moment you are diagnosed with cancer, one of the first things you think of is what medical intervention to pursue. If you decide on surgery, there are several things you need to know so that you’re better prepared for the procedure. To get that information, ask your surgeon the right questions.
Below, we suggest the five most important questions you can ask during the consultation.
1. Do You Specialize in Cancer Treatment Only?
Before asking about your situation, you want to be absolutely certain that you are working with the right professional for you.
Surgery is not a light medical procedure, especially when it involves a body part as sensitive as your breast. There’s evidence that being treated by a specialist breast cancer surgeon significantly reduces the risk of death and enhances the chances of better outcomes.
Check out references and reviews of the surgeon to put yourself at ease. Knowing that you are working with a seasoned surgeon can give you the confidence boost you need to proceed with the treatment.
2. What Type of Breast Cancer Do I Have?
Once you’ve verified your surgeon’s qualifications and experience, it’s time to talk about your specific case. There are many types of breast cancer. The type of breast cancer you have can influence your treatment approach.
Cancer cells can be confined at the site of origin (situ cancers) or present as a tumor with the potential to spread to the neighboring lymph nodes (invasive cancers).
When diagnosed early, both types of cancer can be successfully treated and help you avoid chemotherapy or the loss of your entire breast.
3. What Surgical Options Are Ideal for Me?
There are two most common breast cancer surgical procedures are mastectomy and lumpectomy. Mastectomy involves the removal of the entire breast, including the skin and the nipple. Lumpectomy, on the other hand, targets the cancerous lump only and aims at conserving the majority of the breast tissue.
The surgical route you choose depends on the type and stage of cancer you have, as well as your personal preferences.
4. When Will You Communicate the Results of the Surgery?
Understandably, you’ll be eager to know whether or not your surgery was a success.
Typically, this question is answered in two phases. Immediately following your surgery, the surgeon will have a good impression of how things went. The information will be relayed to you while you’re recovering from the procedure in the post-operative care setting.
The second part of the answer comes after the tissue excised from your breast has been analyzed in the lab by a pathologist. This may take days, so you shouldn’t expect results immediately. After the analysis, your surgeon will share the results during a follow-up appointment.
5. How Will My Recovery Look Like?
What you do before and after surgery determines the success and speed of your recovery. Your surgeon can let you know what to expect after your surgery. This way, you can prepare yourself mentally and co-ordinate your personal and professional obligations beforehand.
Ask your surgeon whether you’re going to need any additional treatment after the surgery, so you take necessary measures to stay ready. In case you’re considering breast reconstruction, ask your doctor what to expect from the available options so you can decide on whether to go for lumpectomy or mastectomy.
Information About Breast Cancer Surgery Can Empower You
When considering breast cancer surgery, you need as much information as possible about the treatment plan. This way, you can be better prepared for what lies ahead.
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