Questions to ask your doctor prior to having a lumpectomy:
1. Where will the incision be located? Unless the cancer involves the skin, there is no excuse not to place the incision in a cosmetically favorable location such as: around the nipple (circumareolar), in the in the breast crease below the breast (inframammary fold), or in the armpit (axilla).
2. What will my breast look like after the lump is removed? Will I have a divot? How large will it be?
3. What are my reconstruction options if I am not happy with how I look postoperatively? Your physician should provide you with options, such as fat transfer (taking fat from one part of the body and moving it to the lumpectomy area).
4. Are you removing an axillary lymph node? If so describe the technique and potential complications.
5. Is radiation necessary after surgery? What is involved with breast cancer radiation therapy, and what are the potential complications?
6. Is breast preservation rather than mastectomy the best option for me? (Most women are candidates for lumpectomy and do not need mastectomy).
Questions to ask your doctor prior to having a mastectomy:
1. Where will the incision be located?
2. Can I keep my nipple? If not why not? (the nipple can be saved in almost every instance).
3. What are the potential complications of mastectomy AND what are the doctor’s personal statistics with these complications? (Complications can include: bleeding, infection, skin or nipple necrosis, reoperation).
4. Are there any alternatives to mastectomy for which I may be a candidate? Is a breast preserving procedure a consideration? If not, why?
5. Will I undergo reconstruction at the same time as my mastectomy? (Only in rare situations is it necessary to delay breast reconstruction. All women considering mastectomy should consult with a plastic surgeon preoperatively to understand their options).
6. Should I consider prophylactic mastectomy of my healthy breast? What are my statistics for a second cancer there? How will I be followed should I preserve that breast?