Your First Meeting with Your Breast Cancer Care Team: What to Expect

If you’re like me, having just been diagnosed with breast cancer, you may be feeling overwhelmed. Or maybe your loved one is going through this and you feel helpless with how to show support. I know the number of options for treatment that I have been presented with has me a bit paralyzed with indecision. I’m a wreck at Baskin Robbins when asked to choose an ice cream flavor – how am I supposed to decide on a surgery/cancer treatment that’s going to affect the rest of my life?

You may be wondering how to start the treatment process and what to expect from your healthcare team. I’ve chosen to get my care at University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center. They are 70 miles from me, but it’s the “A-team” to be with. I had back surgery there in 2017 and know I’m going to be in good hands. While there’s no way to predict exactly how long it will take for you and your healthcare providers to get on the same page about your care plan or diagnosis, having a plan of action can help alleviate some of that anxiety. This is particularly true for first meetings with doctors and other members of your breast cancer care team — whether they’re specialists or general practitioners who deal with more common illnesses but also have some knowledge about treating people with breast cancer (or both!).

What to Expect

You’ll start by meeting with your doctor. If a breast surgeon is not available, he or she will refer you to one.

●        After going over your medical history and discussing issues such as family history of cancer and risk factors for developing breast cancer, the doctor will likely perform an exam of both breasts. This can include looking at the skin, nipples and lymph nodes under each arm. The doctor may also feel around inside one or both breasts while pressing gently on them with his or her fingers to check for lumps or other irregularities inside the tissue (known as palpable masses). A mammogram will be done if necessary.

Before your first meeting

The first meeting with your breast cancer care team is an important step in getting to know each other and beginning to plan for treatment. As you prepare for this meeting, it’s helpful to know what to expect.

Here are some suggestions:

●        Know what questions you have about your diagnosis and treatment options. Make a list of these questions ahead of time so that they are easy for everyone involved in your care to understand–and so that there is no question as to whether or not something has been covered already or needs further clarification later on in the process.

●        Be prepared with medical records from all previous doctors’ visits (especially if they were not at this hospital), including blood work results, imaging scans (such as mammograms), pathology reports from biopsies taken during surgeries, etc.

●        If you have family members who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, ask if they have had genetic testing and if they’d be willing to share their results with your cancer team.

At your first meeting with the breast cancer care team 

You may not know exactly what to expect at your first meeting with the breast cancer care team, but here are some things you should consider bringing and questions to ask your doctor:

●        A list of all medications (including over-the-counter medications) that you take and their dosages. Keep in mind that some can interact with other drugs or cause side effects when taken with certain medications.

●        A list of any allergies or reactions that occurred after taking any medication. This includes food allergies as well as reactions from previous surgeries or procedures (such as tattoos).

●        Other important medical history such as previous surgeries and procedures; family history of cancer; chronic health conditions such as diabetes or heart disease; current weight loss plan if applicable; their treatment plan and types of cancer treatment they received; women who have reached menopause may need hormone replacement therapy medications during treatment but should discuss these options with their physician before starting any new regimen because some types could interfere with chemotherapy drugs.

●        I also purchased a pink notebook and pink ribbon pens that are specifically reserved as my new companion for notes, questions, and effects of the treatments related to my breast cancer diagnosis.

Next Steps

You can expect to hear more about your treatment options. Your care team will also discuss how to help you cope with the effects of any surgery or radiation therapy, which may include pain management techniques and tips for staying active. The next steps on my journey are to meet with the geneticist for a consultation and testing (saliva or blood draw are both choices). I also need to decide on the surgery options I have been presented with by the breast surgeon such as breast reconstruction or mastectomy. More on that next time.

If you have concerns about anything related to breast cancer treatment or recovery, please let your breast cancer care team know right away so they can help resolve them as soon as possible.

Your first meeting with your breast cancer care team is an important step in getting started with treatment.

Your first meeting with your breast cancer care team is an important step in getting started with treatment. The first meeting can be stressful, but it’s also a chance to ask questions and learn more about what to expect during your journey.

Before you meet with your doctor, nurse, or other members of the team:

●        Make a list of questions so that you remember everything that comes up during the appointment.

●        Bring someone along who can take notes for you (a friend or family member). They will also be able to help interpret what doctors say if English isn’t your first language, or if there are any medical terms they use that aren’t clear enough for either party involved in this conversation!

Afterward: * Write down anything else that needs clarification before leaving so there’s no question about whether or not something was said correctly/clearly enough during this process.


If you’re feeling nervous about your first meeting with the breast cancer care team, don’t worry. It’s normal to feel anxious about a new diagnosis and treatment plan. Remember that your doctor and other healthcare professionals are there to help you through this process. They want what’s best for you, and they know how stressful it can be when someone is facing a serious illness like breast cancer. Take some time before your appointment to write down any questions or concerns that come up during preparation–then make sure they’re discussed during your appointment, so everyone knows what needs addressing next step by step as well as possible.

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