Prepare for Breast Surgery: 14 Questions to Ask Your Surgeon
If it has been established that you will require breast surgery, there are a lot of things you will want to know to prepare for it.
I always say that knowledge is power and with something as serious as what you are facing, you will want to be a powerful, pro-active patient to give yourself the best chances to survive this.
We are very fortunate that there are more options and choices than there used to be. Back in the 1960’s, my grandmother had to have a radical mastectomy and lost all the lymph nodes in her arm on the affected side. Fortunately for us, that isn’t the “golden standard” of breast cancer treatment anymore.
Once you have a breast cancer diagnosis from your general practitioner, and know the size of your tumor, whether or not the cancer has spread, how aggressive it is, and your chance of recurrence, it’s time to decide on surgery. In some cases (for instance when a large tumor is involved), surgery might come after chemotherapy.
14 Questions To Ask Your Surgeon
These questions will help you decide which course of action is best for you. You may want to print this out and bring it to discuss with your surgeon.
- Is breast conserving surgery possible for me (lumpectomy rather than mastectomy)?
- How much breast tissue will be removed?
- Do I need chemotherapy before surgery to shrink the tumor?
- Will I be a good candidate for reconstructive surgery?
- If I need mastectomy, can I have a reconstruction immediately, or should it be delayed?
- Will my lymph nodes be removed and tested? If yes, how likely is it that I will develop lymphedema?
- Can I have the sentinel node biopsy option?
- What is the likelihood of cancer recurrence after surgery?
- What are my options for reconstruction, repair or prosthesis?
- What risks are associated with the anesthesia?
- Can I be pretreated for nausea?
- Will I have surgical drains to manage? How many?
- How long does it usually take to heal from this surgery?
- (If having breast reconstruction): Will I need special exercises to help regain full motion and strength in my arm and shoulder?
Most importantly, take a friend or spouse with you – a second set of ears to hear all of this information is crucial, because at some point you WILL feel overwhelmed and stop listening. Stay calm. Breathe. This is scary, but you can do it, and I will be happy to help you at any stage you need help.
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