Being diagnosed with breast cancer is without a doubt a life-altering experience. It’s important for patients to understand the disease and to be able to have an open and detailed conversation with their oncologist so that they have a clear understanding of their treatment options. Because each stage of the treatment warrants a different set of questions, it is natural for patients to have doubts.
While no question is incorrect, there are some important questions a breast cancer patient must ask their oncologist to get clarity on the changes they’ll experience in their body.
Dr. Ashok Vaid is the Chairman Medical and Haemato Oncology at Cancer Institute Medanta Hospital, Gurugram in India. He has been honoured with the prestigious Padma Shri Award. The Medical and Haemato Oncologist at Medanta Gurgaon has the unique distinction of carrying out the first 25 bone marrow transplants in any private sector hospital in North India
Listed below are some vital questions patients can refer to and choose to ask their oncologist:
- What stage of cancer am I in?
Once a person is diagnosed with cancer, several other tests are needed to determine the stage. So, while it is important to know what stage of cancer a patient is at – the response might take a while to be answered.
- Can my breasts be saved?
Some women are extremely keen on saving their breasts, however, some others may be more comfortable having them removed completely. This question too, requires further investigation. Depending on the kind of cancer a patient has, the doctor guides and helps their patient take a decision.
- Will I be given Hormone Therapy?
This is an important question, especially, due to the side-effects associated with Hormone Therapy and the oncologist can work out a treatment plan with their patient in case the therapy is administered.
- Can I conceive after the treatment?
Breast cancer is most common in older women, but if a younger patient has breast cancer, this question may be more important for them. While there are many women who don’t lose the ability to get pregnant after a breast cancer treatment, there are some treatments which can make it harder to do so. Talking to an oncologist about this concern before commencing treatment is vital.
- Will I be given Chemotherapy?
Asking questions about what to expect from chemotherapy is important. Hair loss is usually what concerns most patients, however, there are other ways in which chemotherapy may affect patients. For example, it can affect fertility as well. It’s best to discuss this with the oncologist in detail before going in for the treatment.
- How long will my hospital stay be?
This is yet another question that can be best answered after the extent of the cancer is determined by the oncologist.
- What will the treatment entail?
A complete treatment plan is chalked out after the extent of cancer in a patient is determined. It’s important to discuss it in detail and share concerns with the oncologist
for a smoother treatment. Not only does this help clear doubts, but it helps having a better understanding of the case.
- Will I be able to get back to work after the treatment?
Many breast cancer patients begin adjusting to regular life shortly after their treatment. But there are others, who may have to delay their work plans to become more physically and emotionally fit. Depending on the extent of the cancer and treatment administered, an estimate of the recovery time can be given to the patient.
- What are the side-effects of treatment?
There is no standard treatment for cancer. Just like cancers vary from person to person, so do the treatment. Once the treatment method is finalised, it’s good to enquire about the side-effects as well.
- What are my chances of complete recovery?
Chances of full recovery depends on what stage the cancer is diagnosed. For instance, stage IV of cancer is usually difficult to cure.
Speaking openly and honestly to the oncologist helps patients understand their cancer better and in turn also help doctors understand the case in detail.