Talking openly with your doctor is one of the best ways to feel good about your breast cancer treatment decisions. When meeting with your doctor, it is a good idea to bring a friend or loved one (co-survivor) with you who can help ask questions and discuss the answers later. It is likely that a lot of new information will be given to you at a time when you may feel overwhelmed. Having an extra pair of ears may help recall and understand the information that was given. 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 a doctor can be hard for some people. It often occurs in an unfamiliar and stressful situation, and some doctors may be hurried or unskilled at answering questions. There are many resources to help make these discussions easier. We have outlined a series of steps to help you talk more effectively with your doctors 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.
Whether you go alone or with someone, preparing a list of questions ahead of time (to take with you) is important. This can help you remember everything you want to ask and keep the discussion focused on the issues that are most important to you. For a list of helpful questions, see the "Questions for Your Provider" pages throughout this section (see below.)
You can also download cards (17 total) that have questions for doctors on many breast cancer topics. It may be helpful to print the cards and take them with you to your next appointment. There is plenty of space to jot down answers to the questions. These topic cards are helpful if you have been recently diagnosed with breast cancer or feel too overwhelmed to know where to begin to gather information.
Your family history of breast and other cancers is important to discuss with your doctor. This information helps your doctor understand your risk of breast cancer (and for survivors, your risk of breast cancer returning).
The Office of the Surgeon General and the National Human Genome Research Institute (part of the National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services) created an online tool called “My Family Health Portrait” that you can use to make a chart of your family’s health history. This chart may be useful in discussions with your doctor about your family history of breast cancer and/or other health conditions.
In 2013, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) 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 improvements to fix shortcomings that add cost and burden to cancer care. Susan G. Komen was one of 13 organizations sponsoring this study.
The report identified key ways to improve quality of care:
Read the full report.
Facts for Life: Talking with Your Doctor
1-877 GO KOMEN(1-877-465-6636)
What gives you strength during treatment?