Questions to Ask After Your Breast Biopsy

Get the Information You Need to Know About Next Steps

When your breast biopsy results in a diagnosis of cancer, you may be overwhelmed and are unsure where to even start. There are some key questions you need to ask in order to have all the information necessary so you can make informed treatment decisions. Here is a list of questions to ask after a breast biopsy. Since many people forget the questions once they're in the doctor's office, you may want to print this out and bring it the next time you see your doctor.

What type of breast cancer do I have?

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Breast cancer is not just one disease. It may be precancerous, non-invasive or invasive, ductal or lobular. Some people may have a type of breast cancer that does not yield a palpable lump and some may have another type that just affects the skin of the nipple. Your treatment options will be tailored to the type of cancer you have as well as several other factors.

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What size is my tumor?

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Tumor size is an important part of staging breast cancer and it affects your treatment decisions. Breast imaging allows for an estimation of tumor size but the final measurements will be determined by a pathologist after the tumor is removed surgically.

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Is there only one tumor?

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A mammogram is often the first test that shows an abnormality in one breast. Before treatment for breast cancer begins, both breasts should be carefully imaged to ensure that the diagnosis and plan for treatment is appropriate and comprehensive. Sometimes a breast MRI will be done to get a different kind of image of the breasts, which can sometimes find abnormalities missed on a mammogram.

What is the grade of my tumor?

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Tumor grade is a measure of how aggressive the cancer cells are behaving. A pathologist will examine the cancer cells for several characteristics, and give the tumor a grade of 1, 2 or 3.

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What was my proliferation score?

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If your cancer is high-grade, it may be given a Ki-67 tumor marker test. Your score on this test helps predict the way your tumor will respond to chemotherapy and what your chances of recurrence after treatment may be.

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What is my cancer's hormone status?

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Most breast cancers are driven by estrogen , progesterone or both of those hormones. Understanding the test results is important, because this information affects your treatment as well as your follow-up care. If your hormone tests come back negative, you may have triple negative breast cancer for which new treatments are being developed.

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How did my HER2/Neu Status come out?

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Her2 is a protein that sends control signals to your cells, telling them to grow, divide and make repairs. If your cancer makes too much HER2, you may need to add Herceptin to your treatments to target the HER2 receptors on the cancer cells.

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Which type of surgery do you recommend? Why?

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Surgery will be done to remove as much of the cancer as possible. Discuss with your doctor whether you can have breast-conserving surgery or a mastectomy. Be sure to tell your doctor if you have a family history of breast cancer, as that may affect your choices.

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Should I have chemotherapy before surgery?

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In some cases, chemotherapy may be given before surgery to shrink the tumor. That might make the difference between a lumpectomy and a mastectomy.

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Are there other tests I should have before treatment?

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Some tests may determine which treatments will most effectively kill your cancer and prevent recurrence. Other tests may be needed to check on the health of your major organs and bones.

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