Questions to ask your healthcare provider

Every week I’m in touch with newly diagnosed women, listening to their questions and doing my best to provide comfort, clarity and accurate information as they think through next steps.

It’s a privilege to be a resource for these women, and I can see God’s hand in all of it.

How else can you explain me (not a phone person, very much a quiet wind down evenings on the couch person) choosing to chat intimately with folks from all over the U.S. who are otherwise strangers?

It’s because I feel an instant kinship with them for what they are going through. If I can help replace their anxiety with comfort, or ease their fears with honest insight, then I will always say yes.

My Father up above knows exactly what He’s doing – no way this introvert would have the energy to do it otherwise!

This week, one of those conversations focused on someone asking me what she should ask her provider – specifically about reconstruction when lumpectomies are no longer an option, and a mastectomy is imminent.

We talked it through, and then I offered to send her a text with her “homework,” – questions to ask the healthcare team (breast cancer surgeon, oncologist and plastic surgeon), which I just sent off a few minutes ago.

Until I started typing, I didn’t really appreciate how many details are involved – details that are now second-nature to me but at the time of diagnosis sounded like a foreign language. How can it not feel overwhelming?

I kept her homework list only to the relevant next steps for right now. No discussions beyond that (yet), because breast cancer tumor cells are so individualized, as is treatment.

To jump farther ahead to scenarios that may or may not be applicable in a person’s particular case would be the opposite of helpful. I won’t do that to anyone.

For the newly diagnosed (or family members/caregivers) reading this, at a minimum, these are the questions to ask:

  1. What is the hormone receptor status of the breast cancer? (get the specific numbers in a report)
  2. What are the treatment options for my type of breast cancer? (based on hormone receptor status)
  3. Should I have a sentinel node biopsy and if yes, can it be done during another surgery?
  4. What is your process for genetic testing?
  5. If my cancer meets the test criteria for genomic testing, let’s discuss next steps.

There is much more to all of this than the simple post here, but in the spirit of keeping things short and useful for the folks who need this information now, there you go.

Her reply to me tonight was so kind, and a beautiful reminder of why I am doing this:

“You have given me a breath of fresh hope.”

Amen to that, and for us all.

Leave a Reply