What Questions Should I Ask My Breast Cancer Surgeon?

Questions to Ask Your Breast Cancer Surgeon at Your First Visit

Questions for your surgeonIf you’re a newly diagnosed patient, your surgeon is one of the first specialists you might see. This is because often times in breast cancer history, surgery was done first. But today, that may not be the case if chemotherapy is done firsthand.

Now, you may be wondering, “What questions should I be asking my breast cancer surgeon on my first visit?” Our Medical Director Dr. Jay Harness explains that breast cancer is a galaxy of diseases. So it’s important to make sure your case will be presented to a multidisciplinary tumor board or other experts to chime in about your best breast cancer management.

But this isn’t the only thing you should be asking your surgeon on your first visit. Find out what other questions you should be prepared to ask your surgeon in the video below.

Transcript

Harness:  What questions should I asked my surgeon during my first visit.  Here are some important thoughts.

You have been referred to a surgeon.  Typically that referral is after a diagnosis of breast cancer has been made.  On some occasions that all be that you are referred to a surgeon because you have abnormal mammograms or an abnormal ultrasound and the surgeon has seen you prior to any core biopsies being done. 

But let’s assume for the sake of this video that this is your first visit with the surgeon and you are now newly diagnosed with breast cancer.  Now at Breast Cancer Answers, I have a PDF that you can download a usual list of question that will help you for that visit, but I am going to also share some additional thoughts with you today that I think will be helpful.  Number one question is why am I seeing a surgeon? 

Well typically the answer is the surgeon is the first specialists that you generally see.  Historically, often surgery was done first, but that may not be the case any longer particularly, if we do chemotherapy upfront.  Now, the other questions that are important here you want to know about the experience of your surgeon, you want to know if the surgeon is a member of a multidisciplinary team. 

You want to know if you are newly diagnosed or is your case going to be presented to a multidisciplinary tumor board or other experts chime in about your best management.  Please remember that the treatment of breast cancer takes a team of people and please also remember that breast cancer is a galaxy of diseases for which we are trying to personalize the treatment for your individual case.  Also, the question may come up do you need to be seen by a genetic counsellor. 

Remember at that first visit with the breast surgeon, this question may need to be raise if you have a strong family history of breast cancer and particularly if your age 49 or younger.  Then, if you are at the point and usually not during this first visit to discuss surgical options, you may also want to know do you need additional imaging studies such as a breast MRI before you can get into the details of the various surgical options that will be available to you. 

Always on the mind of the newly diagnosed breast cancer patient is am I going to need chemotherapy and that may or may not be known during that first visit with instances of HER2/neu breast cancer or triple-negative positive breast cancer, the answer is yes, you are absolutely going to need chemotherapy and in most centres now the chemotherapy is done first before any surgery is done. 

So, you see you need to go into those sorts of visits really and with questions to be asked, how the treatment plan is going to be done for your individual case.  What are the pros and cons of the options that are available to you and again is the surgeon part of a multidisciplinary team.

Dr. Jay Harness is a surgeon specializing in complete breast health, breast cancer surgery, oncoplastic reconstruction, genetic screening, risk assessment and counseling, management of breast health issues and breast cancer treatment in Orange County, California. Dr. Harness completed his general surgery residency at University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers.