These are just a few suggestions of questions to ask your surgeon or plastic surgeon prior to breast cancer surgery or reconstruction. Delete some that don’t apply and add others of your own. I wrote mine out or pasted my list into a single notebook and then recorded the answers there. Having everything in one place really helps. It is always a good idea to make a recording of the answers to the questions if you physician will allow it, as it is often hard to take everything in when you are under stress. Or take someone with you as support and an extra pair of ears.
In addition, do not be afraid to ask for a second or third opinion if you are able. Your doctor should be willing to explain the procedure they are proposing and answer any questions you might have.
- Which procedure (lumpectomy/mastectomy) do you recommend and why?
- How do I prepare for surgery?
- What happens during and right after surgery?
- How long will I be in hospital?
- What are potential complications/risks?
- Do you take sentinal lymph nodes or remove all lymph nodes?
- What are my risks for lymphedema? What can I do to lessen my likelihood of experiencing lymphedema?
- How long will it take to recover? How much help will I need?
- Can you provide me with information on recovery and follow-up care? When can I resume normal activities?
- Describe my options for reconstruction (implants with skin sparing mastectomy, lat flap, TRAM flap, DIEP flap). What do you recommend and why? Will this be done immediately after surgery to remove cancer or will it be delayed? Why?
- How many patients have you treated with this procedure? What are potential complications and what incidence of complications have you seen?
- Can you show me before and after photographs?
- Can you provide me with contact information for actual patients of yours whom I could call to talk about the procedure?
In addition, the American Society of Clinical Oncology has a very extensive list of questions that is very helpful, see ASCO: Questions to Ask