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Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Breast Cancer in Men

It’s important to be able to have frank, open discussions with your cancer care team. They want to answer all of your questions, so that you can make informed treatment and life decisions.

Here are some questions that you can use to help better understand your cancer and your treatment options. Don’t be afraid to take notes and tell the doctors or nurses when you don’t understand what they’re saying. You might want to bring another person with you when you see your doctor and have them take notes to help you remember what was said.

Not all of these questions will apply to you, but they should help get you started. Be sure to write down some questions of your own. For instance, you might want more information about recovery times or you may want to ask about nearby or online support groups where you can talk with other men going through similar situations. You may also want to ask if you qualify for any clinical trials.

Keep in mind that doctors aren’t the only ones who can give you information. Other health care professionals, such as nurses and social workers, can answer some of your questions. To find out more about speaking with your health care team, see The Doctor-Patient Relationship.

When you're told you have breast cancer

  • Exactly what type of breast cancer do I have?
  • How big is the cancer? Where exactly is it?
  • Has the cancer spread to my lymph nodes or other organs?
  • What’s the stage of the cancer? What does that mean?
  • Will I need any other tests before we can decide on treatment?
  • Do I need to see any other doctors or health professionals?
  • What is the hormone receptor status of my cancer? What does this mean?
  • What is the HER2 status of my cancer? What does this mean?
  • How do these factors affect my treatment options and long-term outlook (prognosis)?
  • What are my chances of survival, based on my cancer as you see it?
  • Should I think about genetic testing? What would the pros and cons of testing be?
  • How do I get a copy of my pathology report?
  • If I’m concerned about the costs and insurance coverage for my diagnosis and treatment, who can help me?

When deciding on a treatment plan

  • What treatments are appropriate for me? What do you recommend? Why?
  • How long will treatment last? What will it involve? Where will it be done?
  • What risks or side effects should I expect?
  • Should I think about taking part in a clinical trial?
  • What should I do to get ready for treatment?
  • How much experience do you have treating this type of cancer?
  • Should I get a second opinion? How do I do that?
  • What would the goal of the treatment be?
  • How soon do I need to start treatment?
  • How will treatment affect my daily activities? Can I still work fulltime?
  • Will I lose my hair? If so, what can I do about it?
  • What are the chances the cancer will come back (recur) after this treatment?
  • What would we do if the treatment doesn’t work or if the cancer comes back?
  • What if I have transportation problems getting to and from treatment?

If you need surgery

  • Is breast-conserving surgery (lumpectomy) an option for me? Why or why not?
  • What are the pros and cons of breast-conserving surgery versus mastectomy?
  • How many surgeries like mine have you done?
  • Will you have to take out lymph nodes? If so, would you advise a sentinel lymph node biopsy? Why or why not?
  • What side effects might lymph node removal cause?
  • How long will I be in the hospital?
  • Will I have stitches or staples at the surgery site? Will there be a drain (tube) coming out of the site?
  • How do I care for the surgery site? Will I need someone to help me?
  • What will the scar look like?
  • Do I need to stop taking any medications or supplements before surgery?
  • When should I call your office if I’m having side effects?

During treatment

Once treatment begins, you’ll need to know what to expect and what to look for. Not all of these questions may apply to you, but asking the ones that do may be helpful.

  • How will we know if the treatment is working?
  • Is there anything I can do to help manage side effects?
  • What symptoms or side effects should I tell you about right away?
  • How can I reach you on nights, holidays, or weekends?
  • Will I need to change what I eat during treatment?
  • Are there any limits on what I can do?
  • Can I exercise during treatment? If so, what kind of exercise should I do, and how often?
  • Can you suggest a mental health professional I can see if I start to feel overwhelmed, depressed, or distressed?
  • Will I need special tests, such as imaging scans or blood tests? How often?

After treatment

  • What are the chances my cancer might come back? What will we do if that happens?
  • What type of follow-up will I need after treatment?
  • Will I need a special diet after treatment?
  • Are there any limits on what I can do?
  • Am I at risk for lymphedema?
  • What can I do to reduce my risk for lymphedema?
  • What should I do if I notice swelling in my arm?
  • What other symptoms should I watch for?What kind of exercise should I do now?
  • What type of follow-up will I need after treatment?
  • How often will I need to have follow-up exams, blood tests, or imaging tests?
  • How will we know if the cancer has come back? What should I watch for?

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as editors and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Revised: April 27, 2018

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