Questions to Ask Your Doctor

You may want to ask your doctor some of these questions before having radiation therapy for breast cancer:

Disease and Treatment

  • What type of tumor do I have? Is it benign or malignant?
  • What stage is my cancer?
  • What are my treatment options?
  • Why is radiation used to treat my type of cancer? Would radiosurgery be appropriate for my cancer?
  • How many sessions of treatment will I need?
  • If radiation therapy or radiosurgery is appropriate for me, what are the most frequent and most serious side effects I can expect? How long will side effects last? Is there anything we can do to reduce the chances of experiencing side effects or reducing their severity?
  • When will treatment start? How long is each treatment? When will it end? How often will I have treatments? How long will each treatment last?
  • What will happen if I don't have treatment?
  • Will I also need other treatments, such as chemotherapy, surgery, or hormone therapy? If so, when will I receive them, and in what order?
  • Will the treatment hurt?

Quality of Life

  • Will I be able to continue my normal activities during treatment? If not, how soon after treatment will I be able to resume them? Work? Sexual activity? Aerobic exercise?
  • What is the chance that the cancer will spread if I do not have treatment?
  • How will I feel during treatment? Will I be able to drive myself to and from treatment?
  • What can I do to take care of myself before, during, and after treatment?
  • Will radiation therapy affect my sex life or my ability to have children?
  • Will I need a special diet during or after my treatment?
  • Is it safe to take vitamins during treatment? Are there special lotions or deodorants that I should or shouldn't use?
  • Will I be able to drive myself to and from treatment?

Prognosis and Survival

  • What is the goal of treatment?
  • What is the prognosis (probable outcome) for people with this stage of cancer?
  • What is the probability that radiation therapy will work for me? It if works, what are the chances that the cancer will come back?
  • How will we know the treatment is working?
  • What are survival rates for my type and stage of cancer? After my treatment is completed, how often will I need to return for check-ups?

Questions about your Team and Treatment Facility

  • How many patients have you treated with my specific form of cancer?
  • Does this facility offer all of the treatment methods that will be used in fighting my cancer, or will I have to go to multiple treatment facilities?
  • Does this facility offer any support groups I can turn to during and after treatment?
  • Is there a dietician I can work with?
  • What other services are available to help me and my family deal with this disease?
  • What are reasons I should call you at night or on a weekend? Whom do I call and at what phone number?