In the weeks following a breast cancer diagnosis, you must make a staggering number of decisions. Women seeking treatment for breast cancer have more options than ever and, as a result, owe it to themselves to learn as much as they can. Studies have shown that well-informed patients are more secure with treatment decisions, less anxious about what may lie ahead, and overall more satisfied with their care.
Treating cancer should be a collaboration between you and your cancer treatment team. The team offers your treatment options; you work with your doctor to decide which options are most acceptable to you. (See Choosing Your Doctors.)
In inflammatory breast cancer, cancer has spread to the skin of the breast and the breast looks red and swollen and feels warm. The redness and warmth occur because the cancer cells block the lymph vessels in the skin. The skin of the breast may also show the dimpled appearance called peau d'orange (like the skin of an orange). There may not be any lumps in the breast that can be felt. Inflammatory breast cancer may be stage IIIB, stage IIIC, or stage IV.
Cancer treatment can take an emotional and physical toll on you. Therefore, consider contacting a support group, educational program, or seek spiritual support. Seek out a friend who has successfully been treated, or ask your doctor or nurse where to get such help.
Questions to Ask Your Doctor Before Choosing Breast Cancer Treatment
Print this out and take it with you to your next doctor's appointment.
1. What type of breast cancer do I have and what stage is it?
2. What treatment options are available for this stage of breast cancer?
3. What are the risks, side effects, or complications of these treatments?
4. How long will the treatment take?
5. What is my prognosis?
6. What medicines will I be taking? And for how long?
7. Will any of these treatments cause premature menopause or infertility?
8. Are these proven or experimental techniques, methods, or medications?
9. Is this treatment covered by insurance?
10. Can you recommend someone for a second opinion?
11. How should I expect to feel during treatment?
12. Are any changes in diet or lifestyle necessary before, during, or after treatment?
13. What are the options for breast reconstruction, if surgery is recommended?
Get the Most Out of Your Visit to a Cancer Specialist
Bring along a family member or friend to your appointments to help sort through information provided by the doctor. Take paper and pen to jot down notes or questions.
Ask for handouts or pamphlets to take home and review.
Read and print this article, mark the areas of concern to you, and take it with you to your next doctor's visit.
Before you consult with your oncologist, surgeon, or radiation specialist, print out these valuable Questions to Ask to help you better understand your care.