Talking openly with your doctor is one of the best ways to feel good about your breast cancer treatment decisions and your care.
When meeting with your doctor, it’s a good idea to bring a family member or friend who can help ask questions and discuss the answers later. You’re likely to hear a lot of new information and you may feel overwhelmed.
Having an extra pair of ears may help recall and understand the information given.
If someone cannot be with you in person, ask if they can be there virtually, over the computer or phone.
Recording the discussion on a cell phone, small tape recorder or other device can be helpful (even if someone is with you at the appointment).
Talking with doctors can be hard for some people. These can be unfamiliar and stressful situations, and some doctors may be hurried or unskilled at answering questions.
There are many resources to help make these discussions easier. We have tips to help you talk with your doctors more effectively in our fact sheet “Talking with Your Doctor.”
The National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship and American Cancer Society also have tips on talking with doctors.
All hospitals and medical centers should provide medical interpreters for people who are limited-English speakers or non-English speakers.
Medical interpreters should be available for most languages and are free-of-charge to the patient. These services may be in person or over the telephone.
It’s best to use a trained medical interpreter rather than a family member or friend. Trained interpreters can explain complex medical terms and procedures that may not be familiar to non-medical people, even if they are fluent in a language.
Friends and loved ones may also have an emotional response to the information given by a health care provider. This may affect how they give the information to the patient.
Whether you go alone or with someone, preparing a list of questions ahead of time is important. Take the questions with you to your appointment. This can help you remember everything you want to ask and keep the discussion focused on the issues most important to you.
There may also be new cancer terms and medical words you haven’t heard before. Ask your doctor to explain anything you don’t understand.
We have lists of questions related to many topics in the "Questions for Your Provider" sections below.
Susan G. Komen® has a series of Questions to Ask Your Doctor resources that may be helpful if you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer or if you have concerns about breast cancer screening or your risk of breast cancer.
You can download and print these resources and take them with you to your next doctor appointment. There’s plenty of space to write down the answers to these questions, which you can refer to later.
Your breast cancer treatment plan is based on both medical and personal choices. Together, you and your health care provider make treatment decisions to fit the goals of your care. This is called shared decision-making.
After you get a recommended treatment plan from your provider, take time to study your treatment options. Talk to those closest to you. Consider getting a second opinion.
Make thoughtful, informed decisions that are best for you. Each treatment option has risks and benefits to consider along with your own values and lifestyle.
Your treatment is tailored to:
Because of the differences between tumors and between people, your treatment plan may differ from someone else’s, even though you both have breast cancer.
Your family history of breast cancer and other cancers is important to discuss with your doctor. This information helps your doctor understand your risk of breast cancer (and for those diagnosed with breast cancer, your risk of breast cancer returning).
Susan G. Komen®'s My Family Health History Tool
In 2013, the Health and Medicine Division of the National Academy of Sciences (formerly the Institutes of Medicine) released a set of recommendations (below) on improving cancer care in the U.S.
The report Delivering High-Quality Cancer Care: Charting a New Course for a System in Crisis recommends ways to fix shortcomings that add cost and burden to cancer care. Susan G. Komen was one of 13 organizations that sponsored this study.
The report identified key ways to improve quality of care:
Read the full report.
Facts for Life: Talking with Your Doctor
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