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5 Things You Should Question If You Have Been Diagnosed With Breast Cancer

By Lyda E. Rojas Carroll, MD FACSBreast Surgery 

What is the stage and type of cancer? 

This can be answered by testing a tissue sample, commonly known as biopsy, which can be done using either ultrasound mammogram or a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).  This radiographic testing along with a breast exam can tell you the size of the tumor and if lymph nodes look or feel abnormal.  The biopsy will reveal the type of cancer and whether the cells are sensitive to estrogen progesterone and HER-2/neu.  Very rarely an open surgical biopsy is necessary. 

What is your family history? 

There are criteria set forth by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) to determine who should undergo genetic testing which helps to determine a person’s chance of developing or passing on a genetic disorder.  This testing may help decide what surgery is best for you.  Options include lumpectomy with or without sentinel lymph node biopsy versus mastectomy (various types) with sentinel lymph node biopsy.

Will you need further testing? 

If your breast is very dense or you have been diagnosed with invasive lobular cancer, an MRI of the breast may help plan your surgery.

Is there a plastic surgeon available to help in reconstruction? 

Whether you decide on a lumpectomy or mastectomy the plastic surgeon can help you obtain the best cosmetic outcome.

Will I need to see a medical oncologist? 

Most times the medical oncologist appointment occurs after surgery but there are instances were chemotherapy or anti-endocrine therapy can be given first.  This is called neoadjuvant treatment.  There are national guidelines to help in making this decision.

The treatment of breast cancer is a team approach and one that includes the breast surgeon, radiologist, pathologist, medical oncologist, plastic surgeon and radiation oncologists.