Preparing for your appointmentBy Mayo Clinic staff
Consulting with your health care team
Women with breast cancer may have appointments with their primary care doctors, as well as several other doctors and other health professionals, including:
- Breast health specialists
- Breast surgeons
- Doctors who specialize in diagnostic tests, such as mammograms (radiologists)
- Doctors who specialize in treating cancer (oncologists)
- Doctors who treat cancer with radiation (radiation oncologists)
- Genetic counselors
- Plastic surgeons
What you can do to prepare
- Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
- Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
- Write down your family history of cancer. Note any family members who have had cancer, including how each member is related to you, the type of cancer, the age at diagnosis and whether each person survived.
- Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements that you're taking.
- Keep all of your records that relate to your cancer diagnosis and treatment. Organize your records in a binder or folder that you can take to your appointments.
- Consider taking a family member or friend along. Sometimes it can be difficult to absorb all the information provided during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Questions to ask your doctor
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions will help make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For breast cancer, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What type of breast cancer do I have?
- What is the stage of my cancer?
- Can you explain my pathology report to me? Can I have a copy for my records?
- Do I need any more tests?
- What treatment options are available for me?
- What are the benefits from each treatment you recommend?
- What are the side effects of each treatment option?
- Will treatment cause menopause?
- How will each treatment affect my daily life? Can I continue working?
- Is there one treatment you recommend over the others?
- How do you know that these treatments will benefit me?
- What would you recommend to a friend or family member in my situation?
- How quickly do I need to make a decision about cancer treatment?
- What happens if I don't want cancer treatment?
- What will cancer treatment cost?
- Does my insurance plan cover the tests and treatment you're recommending?
- Should I seek a second opinion? Will my insurance cover it?
- Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take with me? What websites or books do you recommend?
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask additional questions that may occur to you during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may allow time later to cover other points you want to address. Your doctor may ask:
- When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
- Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
- What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
- Breast cancer. Fort Washington, Pa.: National Comprehensive Cancer Network. http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/f_guidelines.asp. Accessed March 13, 2013.
- Townsend CM Jr., et al. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery: The Biological Basis of Modern Surgical Practice. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2012. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/208746819-6/0/1565/0.html. Accessed March 13, 2013.
- Breast cancer treatment (PDQ). National Cancer Institute. http://cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/breast/Patient. Accessed March 18, 2013.
- Leading new cancer cases and deaths — 2013 estimates. American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/research/cancerfactsfigures/cancerfactsfigures/cancer-facts-figures-2013-most-requested-tables-figures. Accessed March 18, 2013.
- SEER stat fact sheet: Breast. National Cancer Institute. http://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/breast.html. Accessed March 18, 2013.
- Breast cancer prevention (PDQ). National Cancer Institute. http://cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/prevention/breast/Patient. Accessed March 13, 2013.
- What you need to know about breast cancer. National Cancer Institute. http://cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/breast. Accessed March 13, 2013.
- Hormone therapy for breast cancer. National Cancer Institute. http://cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Therapy/hormone-therapy-breast. Accessed March 18, 2013.
- Cancer-related fatigue. Fort Washington, Pa.: National Comprehensive Cancer Network. http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/f_guidelines.asp. Accessed March 18, 2013.
- AskMayoExpert. Mammogram screening guidelines. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2012.
- Faslodex (prescribing information). Wilmington, Del.: AstraZeneca; 2012. http://www.faslodex.com. Accessed March 18, 2013.
- Herceptin (prescribing information). South San Francisco, Calif.: Genentech, Inc.; 2010. http://www.herceptin.com. Accessed March 18, 2013.
- Perjeta (prescribing information). South San Francisco, Calif.: Genentech, Inc.; 2012. http://www.perjeta.com. Accessed March 18, 2013.
- Kadcyla (prescribing information). South San Francisco, Calif.: Genentech, Inc.; 2013. http://www.kadcyla.com. Accessed March 18, 2013.
- Tykerb (prescribing information). Research Triangle Park, N.C.: GlaxoSmithKline; 2012. http://www.tykerb.com. Accessed March 18, 2013.
- Breast SPOREs. National Cancer Institute. http://trp.cancer.gov/spores/breast.htm. Accessed March 19, 2013.
- Moynihan TJ (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. March 19, 2013.
- Pruthi S (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. March 21, 2013.