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Health Information Center

Talking to Your Doctor About Breast Cancer

  • Amy Scholten, MPH
Publication Type:

Condition InDepth

Talking to Your Doctor About Breast Cancer

You have your own health history. Talk with your doctor about your risk factors and background with breast cancer. By talking openly and often with your doctor, you can take an active role in your care.

Tips for Getting Information

Here are some tips that will make it easier to talk to your doctor:

  • Bring someone with you. It helps to have another person hear what is said and think of questions to ask. They may also be able to give more details.
  • Write down your questions so do you do not forget them.
  • Write down the answers you get and make sure you understand what you are hearing.
  • Ask for help if you need it. Do not be afraid to ask questions or ask where you can find more information. You have a right to know.

Questions to Ask Your doctor

About Breast Cancer

  • How common is breast cancer?
  • How serious is it?

About Your Risk of Getting Breast Cancer

  • Do I have a higher risk of breast cancer?
  • Do my symptoms point to breast cancer?
  • What about other family members?
  • What can I do to manage the risk?
  • Should I think about having a mastectomy even though I do not have breast cancer?

Treating Breast Cancer

If your doctor says you have breast cancer, go to at least one more doctor to make sure. Then, you can talk about how to treat it. Treating breast cancer involves many types of doctors. Talk to each one.


  • What kinds of surgery are there? Is breast-sparing surgery something I can do?
  • What are the risks of surgery?
  • Do I need to have my lymph nodes removed? If so, how many?
  • Where will the scars be?
  • What will they look like?
  • When can I have breast reconstruction? Can you help me find a plastic surgeon?


  • Will I need chemotherapy?
  • What are the drugs?
  • How will they make me feel?
  • What are the risks?
  • When will this start and end?
  • Do I have to stay away from certain foods?
  • Do I need to stay away my grandchildren if they get sick?

Radiation Therapy

  • Will I need radiation therapy? If so, what type will it be?
  • How long will this last?
  • How often will I have to do it?
  • How will this make me feel?
  • What are the risks of radiation therapy?

About Lifestyle Changes

  • Will I still be able to go about my day like I do now?
  • When can I return to normal?
  • Will I have to do special exercises?
  • Will I need a special diet?
  • Are there any alternative or complementary therapies I should know about?

About Outlook

  • What are the chances that breast cancer comes back?
  • Can you help me find a support group or a counselor for me and my family?
  • What are my chances of living or dying?
  • How will I feel during therapy?
  • What kind of changes in my body should I expect?
  • Will I still be able to have children?
  • How will this change my sex life?
  • Should I think about joining a clinical trial?


  • Breast cancer in women. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/breast-cancer-in-women.
  • Getting the most out of your doctor appointment. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/tips-for-talking-to-your-doctor.
  • Talking with your health care team. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/coping/adjusting-to-cancer/talk-with-doctors.


  • Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.