Breast Cancer - Metastatic: Questions to Ask the Health Care Team

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 11/2022

ON THIS PAGE: You will find some questions to ask your doctor or other members of the health care team, to help you better understand your diagnosis, treatment plan, and overall care. Use the menu to see other pages.

Talking often with the health care team is important to make informed decisions about your health care. These suggested questions are a starting point to help you learn more about your cancer care and treatment. You are also encouraged to ask additional questions that are important to you. You may want to print this list and bring it to your next appointment. It may also be helpful to ask a family member or friend to come with you to appointments to help take notes.

Questions to ask after getting a metastatic breast cancer diagnosis

  • Where in my body has the cancer spread?

  • Are you experienced in treating metastatic breast cancer?

  • Would you recommend seeking a second opinion?

  • What is my prognosis?

  • Are there things I can do to improve my prognosis?

  • What are the next steps in my treatment planning?

Questions to ask about your treatment

  • What are my treatment options?

  • What types of research are being doing for metastatic breast cancer in clinical trials? Do clinical trials offer additional treatment options for me?

  • Is there enough information to recommend a treatment plan for me? If not, which tests or procedures will be needed?

  • What biomarker tests do you recommend? Why?

  • What is the hormone receptor status of the cancer? What does it mean?

  • What is the HER2 status of the cancer? What does it mean?

  • If I have already had treatment for non-metastatic breast cancer, do you plan on retesting the hormone receptor status and HER2 status of the cancer?

  • What treatment plan do you recommend?

  • What is the goal of each treatment? Is it to eliminate the cancer, help me feel better, or both?

  • What are the risks of each treatment?

  • How does having reached (or not reached) menopause affect my treatment options?

  • What is chemotherapy? What is hormonal or endocrine therapy? What is targeted therapy? What is immunotherapy?

  • What can I do to get ready for each treatment?

  • What are the new research advances for this type of cancer?

  • What are the potential side effects of each treatment?

  • How will we know if the treatment is working?

  • Who should I contact about any side effects I experience? And how soon?

  • What care will be given to help control my symptoms and side effects?

  • Will I lose my hair, and can anything be done to prevent hair loss?

  • How will this treatment affect my daily life? Will I be able to work, exercise, and perform my usual activities?

  • Will this treatment affect my sex life? If so, how and for how long? Is there anything I can do to prevent or treat these effects?

  • When do I need to make a treatment decision?

  • Who will lead my overall treatment?

  • Who will be part of my health care team, and what does each member do?

  • If I have questions or problems, who should I call?

  • Do you communicate with your patients by email or with an electronic health record system?

  • What will happen if this treatment stops working?

  • What will happen if I choose to stop treatment?

Questions to ask about living with metastatic breast cancer

  • What level of caregiving will I need at this time?

  • Can you refer me to a palliative care/supportive care doctor?

  • Where can I find emotional support for me and my family?

  • What other services are available to me and my family?

  • If I am worried about managing the costs of cancer care, who can help me? Who can help me understand what is covered by my insurance?

  • Do you have a social worker I can speak with?

  • What should I tell my employer, if anything, and what laws protect my rights as an employee?

  • If I have questions or problems, who should I call?

Questions to ask about advanced cancer decision-making

  • Will palliative care continue even if I stop cancer treatment?

  • Where can I receive palliative care?

  • How often will I need to see a doctor?

  • What is hospice care? How is hospice care different than palliative care?

  • Am I at the point where I should consider hospice care? If not, will you tell me when I am?

  • Where can I receive hospice care, and how can I manage its costs?

  • Do I need to choose a health care proxy to make medical decisions for me when I cannot?

  • What legal documents should I have in place that explain what medical treatment I want or do not want? A living will (advance directive)? Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or do-not-resuscitate orders? A Physicians Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) form?

  • Are there resources you recommend to help me put my legal, financial, and business affairs in order?

  • What services are available to help me and my family with the emotional and spiritual aspects of death and dying?

The next section in this guide is Additional Resources. It offers more resources on this website that may be helpful to you. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.