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Questions to Ask Your Physician

You should feel comfortable enough to have open discussions with your physician or cancer care team. Here are some questions you may want to ask.

  • What is my diagnosis? What type of cancer do I have?
  • Has my cancer spread to lymph nodes or internal organs?
  • What is the stage of my disease? How does it affect my treatment options and prognosis?
  • What are my treatment choices? Which would you recommend for me? Why?
  • What are the chances that my treatment will be successful?
  • Would a clinical trial be appropriate for me?
  • What are the risks and side effects of each treatment?
  • Will I be able to drive myself home from my treatment sessions?
  • How long will the treatments last?
  • What should I do to get ready for treatment?
  • Will I have to change my normal activities?
  • Should I follow a special diet?
  • What will the treatment cost?
  • Will I be able to have children after my treatment?
  • What are the chances of recurrence of cancer with the treatment programs we have discussed?
  • How will I cope? How will my family cope?

Write down any other questions that occur to you, such as recovery time for planning a return to work. Consider asking a close friend or family member to accompany you; he or she can take notes or help ask questions during your visit.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can cancer be prevented?

A: Many types of cancer be prevented through healthy choices such as not using tobacco, avoiding harmful sun rays, and choosing foods with less fat and more fiber. Scheduling regular check-ups and self-exams can reveal cancer at an early stage when treatment is most likely to be effective.

Q: What is a biopsy?

A: A biopsy is the microscopic examination of a surgically removed piece of tissue. A biopsy determines whether cancer cells are present. A biopsy is the most important procedure in diagnosing cancer.

Q: What are calcifications?

A: Calcifications are small calcium deposits in the breast, detected from a mammography. Microcalcifications are tiny specks of calcium that can be found in an area of rapidly dividing cells. When many of these are seen in one area, they are called a cluster and may indicate a small cancer. About half of the cancers detected by mammography appears as a cluster of microcalcifications, the other half appears as lumps. Macrocalcifications are coarse calcium deposits that are found in about half of all women over age 50 and are associated with benign conditions. They are often seen in both breast and are most likely due to aging or old injuries.

Q: What is metastasis?

A: Metastasis refers to the spread of cancer cells to distant areas of the body by way of the lymph system or bloodstream.

Q: What are risk factors for cancer?

A: Unprotected exposure to strong sunlight is a risk factor for skin cancer and smoking is a risk factor for cancers of the lungs, larynx, mouth, throat, esophagus, kidneys, bladder and several other organs. A diet high in animal fats is a risk factor for several types of cancers, including stomach, colorectal, breast and prostate cancer.

Q: What are my risks for breast cancer?

A: Being an aging woman simply puts you at risk. The risk of cancer is also increased if there is history of breast cancer in the family; has never had children; had her first child after the age of 30; began menstruating before age 12; or completed menopause after the age 55.

Q: When should I start having mammograms done?

A: Women should start having annual mammograms around the age 40. Women that have a family history of breast cancer should start having mammograms earlier. The ACS (American Cancer Society) recommends having a baseline mammogram done at the age of 35.

Q: Will the mammogram hurt?

A: No. The pressure caused by flattening the breast may be uncomfortable, but will not be painful.

Q: Is there any risk in getting a mammogram?

A: The medical benefits far outweigh any potential risks. The modern low-dose mammography equipment is designed to keep radiation levels to a minimal.


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