Just Diagnosed? Questions for Our Healthcare Team

Hearing the words "You have breast cancer" is a disorienting experience at any age. Even if we are considered to be high-risk or have a family history of cancer, learning about own diagnosis catches us off guard, leaving us in a state of shock and disbelief. We know that speaking with our healthcare team and together, devising a roadmap for what's to come is one of the most important initial steps in our process. However, not knowing if we have the right questions about care and treatment can leave us feeling overwhelmed and confused. What do these results mean? What am I supposed to do next? What should I know?

Ideally we want feel prepared when speaking with our doctors and other members of our medical team, but the reality is that many of us do not. We are in uncharted territory and awash in so many emotions that it's hard to think straight. So, to help support our community and their loved ones through these challenging times, we’ve compiled the following guide - Just Diagnosed: Questions for Our Healthcare Team.

“Getting diagnosed with breast cancer changed my entire life. Before cancer, I poured my energy into my family, which I do not regret for a second, but I left very little for myself. I always put my wants and needs on the back burner, and that included my health. Breast cancer forced me to make myself a priority! It made me reevaluate what made me happy and gave me the no-fear attitude to make it happen.” - Kelsey Bucci: In Her Words

Just Diagnosed: Understanding My Diagnosis

    • Why do you think I have cancer?
    • Is there a chance I don’t have cancer?
    • Would you please write down the kind of cancer you think I might have?
    • How serious is my cancer?
    • What will happen next?
    • Additional Online Support

“I live my life with more intention. I am very serious about screenings (just did a colon cancer screening at age 45 because I could), and I advocate for myself. I pay more attention to my gut instinct. Cancer strengthened my relationship with God, and my faith is very important to me. I openly share my faith with others and encourage them to work on all the relationships in their life. For me, that starts with and through God.” - Tina Conrad: In Her Words 

Just Diagnosed: Taking the Next Steps

    • What tests will I need?
    • Who will do these tests?
    • Where will they be done?
    • Who can explain the tests and the results to me?
    • How and when will I get the results?
    • What do I need to do next?
    • Additional Online Support

“I am a huge advocate for living your life for you instead of doing what others or society want you to do. This is my life and I want to live it in a way that makes me happy.” - Casey Kang Head: In Her Words

Just Diagnosed: Discussing Treatment and Care

    • Is there enough information to recommend a treatment plan for me? If not, which tests or procedures will be needed? Will I need to see other doctors?
    • What are my treatment plan options?
    • What treatment plan do you recommend? Why?
    • When do I need to make a treatment decision?
    • Who will lead my overall treatment?
    • What is the goal of each treatment? 
    • Can we eliminate the cancer?
    • Can we help me feel better?
    • What can I do to get ready for treatment?
    • What side effects may I experience?
    • What do I need to do next?
    • Additional Online Support

“Surround yourself with supportive people who lift you up. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself and ask for a second opinion if something doesn’t feel right.” - Angela Martinucci: In Her Words

Just Diagnosed: Resources and Support

  • How do I contact you?
    • Whom would you recommend for a second opinion?
    • Who will be part of my health care team and what does each member do?
    • If I am worried about managing the costs of cancer care, who can help me? Who can help me understand what aspects of my care are covered by my insurance?
    • If I have questions or problems, who should I call?
    • Do you communicate with your patients by email or with an electronic health record system?
    • If have a strong family history of cancer, what is my chance of getting another cancer? How does that change my treatment options? Should I see a genetic counselor?
    • Do you have a social worker I can speak with?
    • What should I tell my employer, if anything, and what laws protect my rights as an employee?
    • What do I need to do next?
    • Additional Online Support 

A breast cancer diagnosis is life-changing. And speaking with multiple medical professionals under stress is a confusing and dizzying experience. Although this may be a moment filled with anxiety and distress, we hope the questions outlined here serve as a resource to help our community find answers and start important conversations about care. We are with you in sisterhood.