What Should I Ask My Surgeon After a Breast Cancer Surgery?

Questions to Ask After Your Breast Cancer Surgery

breast cancer surgeryMany patients assume that after undergoing breast cancer surgery, everything is done. After your lumpectomy or mastectomy, it’s important to understand that there might be other steps that you have to take after your procedure.

For example, for invasive cancers your doctor must treat the whole body involving either anti-hormone therapy and/or chemotherapy in order to treat cells that have circulated around the body.

Because of circumstances like this, the first major step to take is to understanding your cancer. You can do this by asking your doctor questions after your breast cancer surgery.

According to our Medical Director Dr. Jay Harness, you want to make sure that your surgeon goes through the pathology report line-by-line with you so that you understand it.

You want to ask your doctor questions like, “What stage is my breast cancer?” and “What’s the size of my tumor?” Questions like this can be important to your breast cancer treatment.

Find out what other questions you should be asking your doctor in the video below.

Transcript

Dr. Jay Harness: What question should I ask my surgeon after I have been operated upon?  Here are some important thoughts.

You have now had your surgery.  Your surgery may have been a lumpectomy.  It may have been a mastectomy.

If you had a mastectomy, it may have involved reconstruction of the tissue expander or some of your own natural tissue from your body, but you are now back after the surgery awaiting the results in particularly the pathology results that the surgeon should have during that initial postoperative visit.

You will not to be sure that you get a copy of your pathology report and in particular you want to make sure that your surgeon goes through the pathology report line-by-line with you, so that you understand it.

You want to have an idea at this point what is the stage of your cancer you want to know what the size of your tumor, you want to know about the edges or the margins around the tumor that they are negative, that there is a cancer at the edges because if there is, you will need additional surgery to have what we call clean margins.

You want to know about your lymph nodes if only a sentinel lymph node biopsy was done you want to know if it’s positive or negative.  You want a lot of details about what went on during your surgery particularly the pathology report.

One of the questions I am often asked is dear Dr. Harness did you get it all?  Well remember now surgery is part of what we call local regional control for invasive cancers this is only one aspect of your total treatment.

Many patients are still under the impression today that after do the surgery everything is over.  Hopefully, you have seen other videos of Breast Cancer Answers for invasive cancers that tell you that that’s not the case because for invasive cancers we have to treat the whole body involving either anti-hormone therapy and/or chemotherapy in order to treat cells that have circulated around the body.

The surgery then is part of the local regional control and if you had a lumpectomy, then you would generally have some followup radiation therapy.  What perhaps you even had radiation therapy at the time of surgery called intraoperative radiation therapy.  So, other important questions to be asked of your surgeon, is what’s next.

First of all, you got to heal up from the surgery that generally takes two, three, or four weeks and then there are often additional adjuvant treatments such as again anti-hormone therapy potentially chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Well, it’s not forget in the recovery process, you may also need to be seen and we would recommend this by a physical therapist and in the physical therapy department, it is organized to make sure you have got full range of motion of your arm that your shoulder is doing well there is often a tendency after the surgery not to move your arm or shoulder that can lead to freezing and that we certainly don’t want that to happen.

Now occasionally after the surgery, you need to be referred to a genetic counsellor because we now know that as an example your cancer is triple negative and most cases of triple negative breast cancer now required there a visit with a genetic counsellor to be tested for the BRCA1 or 2 genes or some other genes as well.

So, there is a lot you should be getting during that visit if you got drains in, how longer they are going to be in, how much is the drainage decrease before the drains can be removed if you are on preventative antibiotics with the drains in how long do you need to be on them.  That’s sort of a list that I have been given you know of the kinds of questions you should ask.

Remember, surgery is only one part of your treatment.  It’s an important part to make sure you have all the information from the results of that important surgery.

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.