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You Are Part of the Medical Team

The first thing you should understand is that you are part of the medical team. In fact, you are the most important member of the team. It is crucial therefore that you ask all the questions you want, and discuss whatever concerns you may have. To make sure you don’t forget any of these questions, write them down before going to your appointments. As well, as the doctor will be giving you a lot of information, it’s a good idea to bring someone along to the appointment who can take notes of what the doctor is conveying.

Note that before treatment begins, some hospitals hold information sessions to provide more information and to allow you to ask questions and share your concerns. Ask your medical team if this type of workshop is offered at your hospital.

We have compiled a series of questions that women often ask their medical team. You can download these questions and bring them along to your next medical appointment. Choose the ones that are most pertinent to your condition:

  • Diagnosis
  • Treatment
  • Surgery
  • Breast Reconstruction
  • Hereditary Breast Cancer
  • Concerns About Breast Cancer

To suggest additional questions that could help women prepare for medical sessions, contact us
 

Diagnosis

  • Are all breast cancers alike?
  • What type of breast cancer do I have?
  • What is meant by the stages of cancer? What is the stage and grade of my cancer?
  • Can breast cancer spread to other parts of my body? How do you know if the cancer has spread?
  • Why should you check my lymph nodes? What is the sentinel lymph node?
  • What is metastasis? Do I have it?
  • My cancer is a HER2. What does this mean?
  • Does the cancer affect my fertility?
  • Do I have to take more tests (which ones, why, how long do they last, when can I take them, how can I prepare for them, when do I get the results)?
  • What could have caused my breast cancer? 
  • Can breast cancer be cured?
  • Am I going to die?

 

Treatment

Before Starting Treatment

  • Are different types of treatments available? 
  • Which treatments do you recommend and why?
  • What is chemotherapy? What is radiotherapy? What is hormonotherapy? 
  • How do I follow my treatment?
  • Where do I follow my treatment?
  • How many treatments do I follow and how long do they last, in all?
  • What are the benefits of these treatments?
  • What are the risks and side effects of these treatments?
  • How can I help reduce the side effects?
  • When does the treatment start? Can I delay treatment, or does this cause the cancer to spread?
  • Can I refuse treatment?
  • Do I have to be hospitalized throughout the treatment? For how long?
  • Will I lose my hair? If so, what can I do? 
  • Is it possible to undergo treatment during pregnancy? Do I have to use contraception?
  • Are all costs associated with treatment covered by the Quebec Health Insurance Plan (RAMQ)?
  • Do I have to take a leave of absence from work?
  • What is a clinical trial? Can I participate in a clinical trial?

During Treatment

  • What symptoms should I look out for and report? Who do I contact, and how?
  • How can I alleviate side effects such as fatigue, pain and nausea?
  • Does the treatment weaken my immune system? If so, how can I prevent infections?
  • How do I know if the treatment is working? What happens if it doesn’t work?
  • Can I consume any alcohol during the treatment?
  • Is it possible to prevent various sequelae associated with treatment such as reduced mobility in the arms, swelling, scarring, etc.?
  • Are “non-conventional” treatments available? Are they safe?
  • Should I make changes to my daily habits or to my diet?
  • Is it a good idea to exercise during treatment? 
  • Does the treatment trigger menopause? How can I alleviate the effects of menopause?
  • Can I drive home from my treatments?

After Treatment

  • Should I take any special precautions after the treatment?
  • How long does it take for my energy level to get back to normal?
  • When can I resume my routine and go back to work?
  • What is lymphedema? What are the signs and symptoms?
  • What kind of follow-up care do I need?
  • Do I need more tests? How often and where?
  • Should I continue to observe my breasts, have clinical breast exams and mammographies? 
  • When should I have my next mammography? Will I still receive an invitation for breast cancer screening?
  • Am I cured or in remission?
  • People often speak about the possibility of being cured after a five-year period. Why?
  • What are the chances of the cancer returning? What do we do if this happens?

 

Surgery

  • Do I need to have an operation?
  • Are several options available for surgery? What are they?
  • Will my breast be completely or partially removed? Why?
  • What is involved in the operation? Is it painful? How is the pain controlled? Will I have scars?
  • How long is the recovery period?
  • Will it be necessary to remove any lymph nodes? How many? Are there any side effects?
  • Will I be attended by a single physician or by a multidisciplinary team (medical team of several healthcare professionals)?
  • When can I start wearing a bra again?

 

Breast Reconstruction

  • What is breast reconstruction? Is it an option in my case?
  • What are the benefits and drawbacks of breast reconstruction?
  • Is reconstruction covered by the Quebec Health Insurance Plan (RAMQ)? 
  • What is the waiting period for reconstruction?
  • Can I have reconstruction done immediately (at the same time as the mastectomy)?

 

Hereditary Breast Cancer

  • Is my breast cancer hereditary?
  • What is the BRCA gene?
  • Are my family members also at risk of breast cancer?
  • Should they undergo genetic testing?

 

Concerns Related to Breast Cancer

  • Is it normal to have trouble sleeping after a diagnosis? What can be done?
  • I am worried about my family. How do I talk to my children about the cancer? To my spouse? Are services and support available for them?
  • Is it normal to be afraid?
  • I feel sad, angry, worried and anxious all at the same time. Is this normal? Where can I get help?
  • I feel alone and abandoned since the treatment ended. Is this normal? What can I do?
  • Is it normal to be worried about a recurrence?
  • Is it normal to experience a loss of libido? What can I do about it?
  • Where can I obtain a breast prosthesis or a hair prosthesis? 
  • How can I obtain financial assistance if I need it?
  • Should I arrange for home care? How do I go about doing it?