If you have any signs or symptoms that worry you, make an appointment with your primary care doctor or family doctor.
Your doctor can recommend the necessary tests and procedures to confirm a diagnosis of recurrent cancer. Then you'll likely be referred to a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating cancer (oncologist).
What you can do
- Be prepared to discuss your new symptoms and any other health problems you've had since your first cancer diagnosis.
- If you're seeing a new doctor, request your medical records from your former doctor. If you already have these, be sure to bring your medical records and any imaging tests you have with you. Otherwise, you'll need to sign an information release form so that your new provider's office can acquire the records.
- Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements that you're taking. Let your doctor know if you have tried any alternative treatments for your cancer.
- Consider asking a family member or friend to come with you. It may be hard to remember all of the information provided to you during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
If you might have recurrent breast cancer, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- Has my cancer returned?
- Are there other possible causes for my symptoms?
- What kinds of tests do I need? Do these tests require any special preparation?
- What is the hormone receptor status of the cancer recurrence?
- What treatments are available to me at this stage, and which do you recommend?
- What types of side effects can I expect from treatment?
- Are there any alternatives to the approach that you're suggesting?
- Are there any clinical trials open to me?
- What's my prognosis?
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may reserve time to go over points you want to spend more time on. Your doctor may ask:
June 05, 2014
- When did you first begin experiencing symptoms again?
- Has there been a change in the symptoms over time?
- Do these symptoms feel different from when you were first diagnosed with cancer?
- How do you feel overall?
- Have you had any unexpected weight loss? Have you lost your appetite?
- Are you experiencing any pain?
- Niederhuber JE, et al., eds. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier; 2014. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed March 12, 2014.
- Breast cancer. Fort Washington, Pa.: National Comprehensive Cancer Network. http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/f_guidelines.asp. Accessed March 12, 2014.
- When cancer returns. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping/when-cancer-returns. Accessed March 12, 2014.
- Distress management. Fort Washington, Pa.: National Comprehensive Cancer Network. http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/f_guidelines.asp. Accessed March 12, 2014.
- Hurria A, et al. Patterns of relapse and long-term complications of therapy in breast cancer survivors. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 13, 2014.
- Rock CL, et al. Nutrition and physical activity guidelines for cancer survivors. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. 2012;62:242.
- Pruthi S (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. March 17, 2014.
- Moynihan TJ (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. March 25, 2014.