Questions to ask about your breast cancer

It's normal to have questions about your diagnosis and treatment. Below, we've put together some of the questions you may want to ask your doctor or breast care nurse, as well as a guide to preparing for appointments.

1. Questions about your diagnosis

If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, you may want to learn everything you can about your cancer, or you may want information a bit at a time. 

Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your specialist, breast care nurse or anyone else in your treatment team.  

It may take a while for them to gather all the details of your diagnosis while different tests and investigations are carried out. 

You may get bits of information as you go along and sometimes this information can change. 

What type of breast cancer do I have?

There are many different types of breast cancer

How big is the cancer? Is there more than one area?

The size of your cancer may affect the type of operation you have, and whether you need other treatments as well. 

How quickly is the cancer growing?

Breast cancers are given a grade according to how different the cancer cells are to normal breast cells and how quickly they are growing.

Are there cancer cells in the lymph or blood vessels?

Breasts contain blood vessels and other tiny tubes called lymph vessels. If breast cancer cells spread into these vessels, it’s called . This increases the chances of the breast cancer spreading to somewhere else in the body. 

People with lympho-vascular invasion may be offered treatments such as or

Has the cancer spread to the lymph nodes under the arm?

Breast cancer can be found when it’s only inside the breast or sometimes when it has spread from your breast to the glands under your arm. The glands under your arm are called lymph nodes. 

Are hormones helping the cancer to grow?

Sometimes hormones in your body can help the cancer to grow. This is known as oestrogen receptor positive breast cancer.

Is the cancer HER2-positive or HER2-negative?

Sometimes breast cancer cells have a higher-than-normal level of a protein called HER2 on their surface, which helps them to grow.

Will I have any more tests? 

Your treatment team may do other tests on the cancer. They will explain what the tests are and why they would like you to have them. 

2. Questions about your treatment

Questions you might want to ask about your treatment include:

  1. Why is this the best treatment for me?
  2. When will treatment start?
  3. How long will my treatment take?
  4. What are the possible side effects?
  5. How will the treatment affect my everyday life?
  6. Where will I need to go for treatment? 

3. Preparing for your appointments

Write your questions down

It may help to write a list of questions and things you want to discuss, including information about how you’re feeling physically and emotionally. 

Take someone along

You may feel overwhelmed with a lot of new information. It can be useful to take someone with you to appointments who can listen and help you remember what was said. Some people ask if they can use their phone to record the information.

It can be helpful to talk to your supporter afterwards and discuss any decisions you have been asked to make about your care. 

You may also find it useful to take notes during your appointment.  

Say what you want to say

It helps healthcare professionals to care for you if they know what your concerns are and what information you would like. Don’t be afraid to say what’s on your mind.

Make sure you get the answers to your questions

Healthcare professionals know it’s important for your wellbeing to have your questions answered. 

If you don’t feel you have had an answer to your question, ask again. 

Sometimes it’s not possible to give a definite answer, but your treatment team should be able to explain why if this is the case.

If you have any questions you feel have not been answered, or would like to talk through any concerns, call our Helpline below.

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Quality assurance

Last reviewed in March 2021. The next planned review begins in February 2023.

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