Am I going to need chemo?
Your medical oncologist will review your pathology results with you about two weeks after surgery. He will make a recommendation for chemotherapy based on those results. Typically, chemotherapy will only be recommended if you have a tumor that is 1 centimeter or larger or positive lymph nodes under your arm (axilla).
Will I lose my hair if I have chemo?
Nearly all breast cancer chemotherapy drugs cause hair loss. You will notice your hair thinning or starting to fall out about two weeks after your first dose of chemotherapy. At this point, many women decide to shave their heads.
We can provide you with information about how and where to find a wig, if you are interested. If your insurance will cover the wig, we will also write a prescription for you.
Am I going to need radiation?
Radiation therapy is typically recommended if you have:
- A lumpectomy
- Positive lymph nodes under your arm (axilla)
- A mastectomy with a tumor 5 centimeters or larger
Can I have breast reconstruction surgery now or should I wait?
It is best to discuss options with your surgeon before you make a decision. Most of the time, it is OK to have breast reconstruction surgery at the time of your initial breast cancer surgery. This is called immediate reconstruction.
If you are interested in reconstruction, you should meet with a plastic surgeon or a surgeon who performs breast reconstructions, as there are different options. And timing is flexible; reconstruction surgery can be done immediately or years down the road.
I know a woman who had breast cancer and had to take a pill for five years after treatment. Will I have to do that?
Only if your tumor is estrogen receptor (ER) positive. Premenopausal women will be prescribed Tamoxifen, which blocks the effects of estrogen on a breast cancer cell. Postmenopausal women will be prescribed an aromatase inhibitor (Femara, Arimidex, or Aromasin), which will inhibit or shut down the production of estrogen. This pill is not chemotherapy.
I know a woman who had to get an IV infusion for one year. Why? Will I have to do the same?
Most likely, the woman you know had breast cancer that was Her2neu positive. Her2neu is a protein that can sometimes be overexpressed by breast cancer cells. If this is the case for you, your oncologist will prescribe a medication called Herceptin. It is not chemotherapy; it is a targeted therapy given as an IV infusion for one year.
Will my insurance pay for my treatment?
Once your medical oncologist creates your treatment plan, we will get prior authorization from your insurance company before moving forward. The radiation oncology department will do the same when your radiation treatment plan is created.
If I decide to have breast reconstruction surgery later (after treatment is completed), will my insurance pay for it?
The Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998 requires all health insurance providers and health maintenance organizations (HMOs) that pay for mastectomy to also pay for:
- Reconstruction of the breast removed with mastectomy.
- Surgery and reconstruction of the opposite breast to achieve symmetry.
- Treatment of any complications of surgery including lymphedema.
If I have cancer in only one breast but decide to have both removed as a preventative measure, will my insurance pay for removal of the second breast?
Yes. This is also covered under the Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998.
Will I be charged for the nurse navigator services I receive?
Absolutely not. Navigation is a service provided to you completely free of charge by the Saint Francis Cancer Treatment Center.
What if I can’t afford my treatment and medications?
There are many resources available to help cover the cost of cancer treatments and medications. Please let us know if this is a concern so we can connect you with the appropriate resources.