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7 Questions to Ask About Your Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Breast Cancer PatientContributor: Jame Abraham, MD, Director, Cleveland Clinic's Breast Oncology Program 

Being diagnosed with cancer or any major illness is overwhelming and confusing. You don’t know what questions to ask when you walk into a doctor’s office. Here are seven questions to ask your oncologist about your diagnosis so you can understand your stage, prognosis and treatment options:

1. What type of breast cancer do I have?

Not all breast cancers are the same. Doctors classify them in a number of different ways.

Probably the most basic is where the cancer cells originate. Their origin is a factor in whether your cancer may spread and helps decide the kind of treatment you’ll get.

Most breast cancers – 70 percent to 80 percent – start in the milk ducts. They’re known as infiltrating or invasive ductal carcinomas, meaning they’ve broken through the milk duct’s wall and have proliferated into the breast’s fatty tissue.

Ten percent of breast cancers start in the milk-producing glands, or lobules, and are called invasive lobular carcinomas. They’re also capable of spreading.

Some breast cancers are non-invasive, meaning they haven’t spread. They’re contained within the milk ducts and are called ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS.