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Questions to ask breast cancer surgeon?


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My mom has been diagnosed with breast cancer & had a biopsy last week. She meets with the breast cancer surgeon tomorrow to hear more about the results, the plan for surgery, &/or additional/other treatments. This is all new territory for us (& we're all still in a bit of shock over it) so any advice would be greatly appreciated.


Any questions we should remember to ask???


I'm heading out to work shortly so I won't get back to the thread until late tonight. But I thank you in advance for your help/suggestions/advice. :grouphug:

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What type of cancer? (It will be estrogen + or-, progesterone + or -, and Her2 + or -.)  Positives mean that the cancer has receptors for those substances, which also means that it can be targeted.  So any one of those factors can be a + or a -.  If you have 3 positives, there are a lot of treatment options. 


Is it lobular or ductal? 


What stage of cancer do they think it is? There is a move not to treat DCIS (Ductal cancer that has not broken through the ducts) . 


They will likely want to do a sentinel node biopsy to see if it's traveled to the lymph nodes before they give you a stage, but they may already have an opinion. With the sentinel node biopsy, they inject dye near the tumor and see which lymph glands pick up the dye. Then they take those out and look for cancer. If there is none in the nodes, woo-hoo! Good news. Much less invasive treatment options are on the table. If it has traveled to the lymph nodes, they will look elsewhere in the body for it, just in case it's traveled further. (The fact that they are looking elsewhere doesn't mean they think it's likely. They would be covering bases.)  After those results, they will have a more complete plan. 


What treatment is being recommended? What would be other treatments to consider? (not alternative medicine, but sometimes there are different approaches in mainstream medicine.)  In general, a lumpectomy is as effective as a mastectomy unless it's a large tumor in a small breast or unless the tumor has spread across the breast. They will often start with chemo to shrink the tumor before surgery. So about 4 months of chemo before any surgery. Not all bc needs chemo or surgery. You'll have to wait to find out the type and the stage. 


You can ask about prognosis if you want to, but they may not have enough info yet. 


It's helpful if you go into it thinking that there is likely an effective treatment. I even knew a woman who lived 10 years or so with a Stage IV breast cancer diagnosis.  So don't go to "worst case scenario" without cause. It's highly unlikely. 


That's probably enough for a first visit. You'll likely have more before they start treatment. 


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I had a lumpectomy, so your mom's mileage might vary...


My surgeon is still one of my favorite Doctors. He has a lot of knowledge about various treatment options.


He was the one who recommended the lumpectomy rather than a mastectomy. We grilled him on various scenarios and he knew his stuff on what the latest studies were showing.


I had two lumpectomies...both were easy peasy day surgeries. Very little pain. A ten days or so after my surgery I went snow skiing with the family. I was in pretty decent shape prior to my diagnosis so there is that. Chemo came on the heels of the surgeries and it kicked my tushy. Then radiation. It was a long 9 months of treatment.


The surgeon will have ideas for the course of treatment as will the oncologist. I chose two doctors who regularly meet and discuss cases. They work very well together.

The one thing no one really discuss was lymph fluid having to find a new way to leave my arm--made worse by chemo. For several months I wore a compression sleeve and eventually had a specialized lymph massage. It was a surprise I hadn't planned on or known about. You might ask about that.


Good wishes for your mom's treatment and recovery!!!!


Edited by Happy
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Thanks for the replies. I really appreciate it & my mom does too.


If anyone else has info for chiming in, please feel free. I will continue to check the thread even after tomorrow's appointment. I know there will be many upcoming doctor visits, so anything we can do to be prepared/informed/ask questions is what we're trying to do.


Thanks. :grouphug:

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