How to prepare for breast cancer surgery: Know what questions to be asked

How to prepare for breast cancer surgery: Know what questions to be asked

How to prepare for breast cancer surgery: Know what questions to be asked

Breast cancer surgery can be disturbing and terrifying for the patient who is going to undergo. But the person should not panic, remain calm and have a sound mind to think and prepare carefully the questions that need to be asked before breast cancer surgery. While preparing for breast cancer surgery, patients can take certain steps and engage in conversations with their care team that will make the process smoother and more bearable.

In today’s day and age many patients visit multiple different health care teams and getting several different opinions about the breast cancer surgery in order to know the procedure in advance to get the best results. So, the questions you ask ensures that you’re not only prepared for what is next in your treatment, but also you want to make sure that your concerns are being heard and you’re receiving the best possible treatment for your cancer. 


The health care or pre-surgical team is a multidisciplinary one, with patients seeing their medical oncologist, surgical oncologist, genetic counsellor, and possibly social workers or physical therapists. Also, nurse navigators can also help patients navigate the process. All these members are really important, especially in the beginning for organizing the patient’s care and to ensure what steps are next.


If a patient is undergoing neoadjuvant (pre- therapy), chemotherapy or endocrine therapy they have more time to prepare before their surgery. During this time it is recommended that the patients get a second opinion, as well as undergo genetic testing. So, the patients should think wisely and ensure that they are choosing the surgery which is best for them. At times, the individuals in order to avoid the least negative outcome they may think and will have a ‘”kneejerk’” reaction to opt for a double mastectomy which is a major surgery that might not be necessary. 

There are certain Dos and Don’ts that the patient should understand and follow such as: 


  • Patients should make sure that the surgery they are choosing is the right one for them. They can do this by finding a mentor who can guide about breast cancer  surgery and help them opt for the right surgery. 
  •  The patients should make sure to find a mentor and there are a lot of breast cancer programs which has mentors so the patients family or the individual himself can get in touch with the mentor
  • Finally, the patients should stay awake before they undergo breast cancer surgery. If the patient is unsure of what to do and is nervous about the surgery they should reach out to their health care team, who may be able to offer some pre and post-surgical exercises that can help prepare patients for surgery and make the road to recovery easier. 


Try to avoid googling about breast cancer surgery because all the information available on the internet may not be reliable. This might be difficult particularly in the era of internet and social media but one should try and avoid googling  as much as possible. 


There are some patients who are directly headed into surgery without undergoing or doing the neoadjuvant therapy first, but it is mandatory to give these patients written instructions. So from their surgeon or oncologist they get written instructions regarding everything they need to know after their surgery. 

Some of the instructions included are as follows: 

  • What kind of medications should be available at home?
  • How to take care of the bandage
  • How to care for the drains and when they can be expected to be taken out

 Some patients might be undergoing a more intensive surgery or double mastectomy and reconstruction so the surgeon must guide and explain the female patients of what kind of mastectomy bras they can wear after surgery. This help can make a difference in how they feel.


  • How the post- surgical pain will be managed?  
  • If they will be prescribed opioids for pain?
  • If there are any over- the- counter drugs or exercises that will help mitigate pain after procedure?
  • What follow-up tests will I need, and how often will those tests be needed?
  • How often will I need to see a doctor? 
  • What long-term side effects or late effects are possible based on the cancer treatment I received 


Last and the most important person will be the caregivers and loved ones who be instrumental in  helping the patients in their overall treatment and after they undergo breast cancer surgery. 

The most important thing to take care of is specifically the drainspost- surgery. So, the caregiver can be really helpful in keeping track of how much liquid the drain is putting out in the week after surgery. And that’s how the doctors decide when the patient can have the drains removed. So having someone as the note-taker in that specific instance is really helpful.

Caregivers should also understand the signs and symptoms that would warrant a call to the doctor. These include:

  •   A fever over 100 degrees that is not relieved with ibuprofen or other over-the counter medications.
  •   Asymmetric swelling (one breast is swollen while the other is not)
  •   Dizziness or difficulty walking.

In conclusion, by coming prepared and asking the right questions, both patients and their caregivers can become a part of the multidisciplinary team to ensure the best outcomes after breast cancer surgery.



Previous Post Next Post