OurTNBC - lazy

Active Decision Maker

 “When I was diagnosed, I was swamped with emotions, fear, and anxiety. I just wanted to know what to ask, what should I know? We designed this as a simple resource for anyone else about to go through the TNBC experience.” – Nicole

We know that it can be hard to find trusted information on TNBC. When you’re awaiting diagnosis and if you’re diagnosed, it’s normal to have many questions spinning around your head. That’s why we’ve created a guide of questions that can be helpful to ask at various stages of your experience.

The questions below are also available as a handy, downloadable guide.

Questions to ask when you are first diagnosed

  • What type of breast cancer do I have?
  • Can you tell me how TNBC is different from other breast cancers?
  • What stage is my cancer? What should I know about this stage?
  • What does this diagnosis mean for me?
  • Is this a common or rare type of cancer?
  • What types of doctors and specialists will be caring for me?
  • Should I get genetic testing? If yes, where/how should I get it?
OurTNBC - lazy
OurTNBC - lazy

Questions to ask about possible next steps, like surgery and other treatments

  • Do I need treatment right away?
  • What are the different options for my treatment, and what do you recommend?
  • What will my treatment schedule look like?
  • Where can I learn more about these treatments?
  • Is there anyone else I should talk to about treatment?
  • Will I need to have surgery?
  • What should I know about surgery? What are the different surgery options? Is there one that is best suited to my situation? Is there any reason I might not be able to have surgery?
  • How will my cancer and treatment affect my daily life?
  • Will I be able to work, exercise, and do my normal activities?
  • Do I need to change the foods I eat? If yes, could you recommend a nutritionist or meal expert I can talk with?
  • Will my cancer affect my ability to be a caregiver for my children or others? If yes, can you recommend any resources to help with caregiving?
  • Could my cancer or treatment affect my sex life?
  • Could my cancer or treatment affect my ability to have children?
  • Is this hereditary? Could I pass the risk of TNBC on to my children? Should I be recommending to my family members that they get a genetic test?
  • Is there an option to freeze my eggs before treatment starts?

Your top priority when faced with a cancer diagnosis is to get the care you need. If you feel that you are not being treated with dignity or respect, you have the right to speak up. These tips may help:

  • Bring someone with you to your doctor visits. They can help you feel less alone if you have to speak up for yourself.
  • Write things down, or have the person accompanying you take notes. There will be a lot of information to absorb and you will, most likely, find it difficult to remember it all.
    Don’t be afraid to ask your medical consultant to repeat things, or to ask them to rephrase it in plain English.
  • Remember that while your health team has the medical expertise, you are the expert on YOU. You have the right to ask for what you need.
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Glossary of Key Terms

These are explanations of terms that medical professionals and others may use when discussing your TNBC.

Advanced breast cancer

A commonly used term for secondary, metastatic or stage 4 breast cancer

Adjuvant therapy/treatment

Treatment (e.g. chemotherapy) given after surgery.


Hair loss


The area around the nipple

Axillary dissection/clearance

The removal of some or all of the lymph nodes from the armpit to see if the breast cancer has spread beyond the breast.


Not cancerous


The removal of cells or tissue from the body to see if they are cancer cells


Women with a fault, or mutation, in one of these genes have a higher than normal chance of developing breast or ovarian cancer

Breast conserving surgery

Surgery to remove breast cancer and a small area of healthy tissue around the cancer. Also known as lumpectomy.


Treatment for cancer using drugs

Clinical trials

Studies involving patients to see if a new treatment is better than an existing one

Complementary medicines

Complementary medicines are products that are used in addition to conventional medical treatments (e.g. chemotherapy and hormone therapies). Complementary medicines include vitamin and mineral supplements, such as fish oil capsules or vitamin D tablets, and herbal medicines.

Complementary therapies

Complementary therapies are practices that are used in addition to conventional medical treatments (e.g. chemotherapy and hormone therapies).Some examples of complementary therapies often used by women with breast cancer include massage, yoga, acupuncture and reflexology.

Double mastectomy

Removal of both breasts during breast cancer surgery

Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS)

Non-invasive breast cancer confined to the ducts of the breast

Early breast cancer

Breast cancer that has not spread beyond the breast or lymph nodes under the arm

Early menopause

Menopause occurring in women under 45 years of age. Early menopause is often a side effect of some common treatments for breast cancer.

Lymph nodes

Glands in the armpit and other parts of the body that filter and drain lymph fluid, trapping bacteria, cancer cells and any other particles that could be harmful to the body


A condition that sometimes develops when lymph nodes have been removed during breast cancer surgery and the lymph fluid no longer drains freely, causing swelling in the arm, hand or breast


Another name for breast conserving surgery


The removal of the whole breast during breast cancer surgery

Metastatic breast cancer

Another term for secondary, advanced, or stage 4 breast cancer

Multidisciplinary Team

Often abbreviated to MDT. A team of health professionals who work together to manage a patient’s treatment and care

Neoadjuvant chemotherapy

Chemotherapy treatment given before breast cancer surgery (sometimes used to reduce the size of the tumour to make it easier for the surgeon to operate)


A type of female hormone

Partial mastectomy

Another term for breast conserving surgery

PBS (Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme)

A scheme funded by the Australian Government to subsidise the cost of certain drugs for eligible consumers


A type of female hormone


Treatment for cancer using X-rays that target a particular area of the body

Secondary breast cancer

Breast cancer that has spread from the breast to other, more distant parts of the body, most commonly the bones, lungs, liver and sometimes the brain. Also known as advanced, metastatic, or stage 4 breast cancer.

Sentinel node biopsy

identification and removal of the first lymph node to which the breast cancer may have spread for testing by a pathologist


Fluid that collects in or around a scar after surgery

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