If your doctor recently diagnosed you with breast cancer, you’ll have an appointment to meet your oncologist. These doctors are cancer specialists who will help direct your treatment plan and supportive care.
What to Expect
During your first visit, your oncologist will explain more about your breast cancer, such as the type and where exactly the cancer may be. The two of you will review your treatment options, and which ones may be best for you.
Your doctor may discuss the outlook for your disease. Your prognosis, or chances of survival, will depend on a mix of factors that may include:
- Your cancer stage (how big the tumor is and how far it’s spread) and grade (the appearance of the cancerous cells)
- Your overall health
- Your age
- How well you respond to treatment
Everyone is different. Survival statistics are based on large numbers of people. Your doctor may have a good idea of what to expect. But no one knows for sure exactly how your cancer might progress.
How to Prepare
You can make the most of your meeting with your new oncologist by learning as much as you can about your breast cancer. It also may help to bring these things to your appointment:
Your medical history. A timeline of your surgeries and other major medical events will help your oncologist better understand your overall health. Include information about your breast cancer diagnosis, such as initial symptoms, treatments you’ve tried, and which doctors you’ve consulted.
Your medical reports. Bring copies of your medical scans, X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and other tests.
A list of your medications. It’s best to bring the actual drugs (prescription or over the counter medications and supplements) you take instead of a list. That allows your oncologist to check your doses and tailor your cancer treatment to help avoid drug interactions.
A notepad. Your oncologist may share a lot of information with you. And some of the medical terms may be unfamiliar. It helps to write it down, either on paper or on your electronic device.
A loved one. A friend or a family member can serve as a second pair of ears. They also can take notes or offer you support before, during, and after your visit.
Questions to Ask
Being informed will help you better manage your disease. Jot down things you want to understand, and bring the list with you:
- What’s the exact type of breast cancer that I have?
- Where is the cancer and where has it spread?
- What does my cancer’s stage mean?
- What treatment options are there, and which do you recommend?
- How soon do I need to start treatment?
- What are the side effects and risks of each type of treatment?
- How will treatment affect my daily life?
- Should I get involved in a clinical trial?
- What support tools are available to help me cope with breast cancer?
- Who can I call if I have questions?