Before your Consultation with the Breast Surgeon

If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, but have not yet met with a breast surgeon, it is natural to be apprehensive about what treatment may involve and the potential impact on your life.

Many patients choose to wait until their consultation with the breast surgeon to obtain more details about their diagnosis, and to be provided with information that is specifically tailored to their clinical circumstance. There is no need to do extensive research and reading in preparation or the consultation. The breast surgeon will not assume any prior breast cancer knowledge, and will explain everything that you need to know.

Jane O’ Brien Before your Consultation with the Breast Surgeon

Other patients have a need to gather as much information as they can prior to seeing a specialist, and this is often a time people turn to the internet, where there is no shortage of information on breast cancer. When you type in the words “breast cancer” into your browser, you’re faced with literally millions of hits. The problem isn’t access to information, it’s too much information, with no filter. Some of what you find online is credible, some isn’t. Some information will be relevant, most won’t be. More importantly, the critical information that you need to make decisions for yourself, and your particular case is actually quite limited, relative to the huge amount of information that’s out there.

I don’t think either approach is necessarily better than the other, but I do sometimes find that patients who go overboard on the internet research prior to their initial specialist consultation, often end up getting themselves so confused, that much of the consultation is devoted to debunking misconceptions and clarifying what isn’t relevant and why, rather than explaining and discussing the relevant details.

The diagnosis of breast cancer is stressful, and for a stressed out, sleep deprived patient with no medical background, trying to source, absorb and retain exhaustive amounts of information on a subject that is completely unfamiliar to them is a challenge. Getting information should be empowering, but too much information without the proper guidance to figure out its relevance can have the opposite effect.

If you are going to do some reading prior to your initial consultation, I would obviously recommend that it come from a reputable source , and preferably be fairly general in nature. There is no point having spent literally hours reading about the various drug treatment options for hormone receptor positive breast cancer, if the surgeon confirms that the needle biopsy has shown your breast cancer to be hormone receptor negative.

For those patients who prefer to access some general background information on breast cancer prior to attending their initial consultation, I have put together the resources below.


The following books are also useful references, and all may be purchased online.
The first three are authored or co-authored by breast surgeons.

  • The New Generation Breast Cancer Book- Dr Elisa Port
  • The Complete Guide to Breast Cancer: How to Feel Empowered and Take Control: Trisha Greenhalgh, Dr. Liz O’Riordan

Jane O’ Brien Before your Consultation with the Breast Surgeon

  • Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book

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