Health Magazine

A Woman’s Right to Know…Breast Cancer Basics Continued

Posted on the 04 October 2011 by Jean Campbell

Once that lump you found, or was found during a comprehensive breast exam, or in a mammogram is confirmed as breast cancer, you are on a journey where your right to know what is happening to you is critical to your decision-making throughout treatment.

know about breast cancerYou can only make informed decisions about lumpectomy, or mastectomy or bilateral mastectomy after those options have been explained to you, after you understand the benefits and drawbacks of each surgery. In some cases, a lumpectomy might not be a choice that is available to you due  to the size or location of your tumor, or if there are multiple tumors.

You need to be a partner in your own care. You need complete information every step of the way and you have the right to know that information.

It doesn’t matter if you have private insurance or no insurance, you have the right to know, the right to ask and to get complete information about what is going to be done in surgery and during treatment should you require radiation or chemotherapy or hormone therapy following surgery.

You need to be comfortable with your care team. You have the right to feel free to ask questions as they arise. You have the right to a care team that is responsive to you, that treats you with courtesy and a caring demeanor. Know that! Finding that team can be a challenge.

You will probably be given a referral from your physician or GYN, or possibly the radiologist who read you mammogram. More than likely they will refer you to a surgeon that is associated with the hospital where they are also associated. You have the right to ask and be told where you can learn more about the surgeon’s credentials and his or her years of experience performing breast cancer surgeries. You have the right to know this.

Be sure to ask for more than one referral, as you have the right to a second opinion. Also ask about referrals for physicians associated with cancer centers in your area.

Even though you are terrified and confused,  you have to do your homework!  The more you know, the more secure you will be in your decisions.

Do independent research. Use the Internet to learn more about the  physicians recommended to you. If your doctor doesn’t know anyone at a nearby cancer center, use the web again, and review the surgeons at these centers, then pick one or two. Once you have a few that look good to you on paper, make an appointment with the first one.

Prepare for your meeting with the first surgeon by speaking to someone you trust who is a survivor, or call the American Cancer Society, or Why Me and speak to one of their counselors about the areas you need to be discussing with the surgeon.

What to bring to the surgeon’s office:

  • A list of all medications and their dosages to save yourself  having to remember them when you are under the stress of filling out forms in the waiting area. Also a list of all surgeries and past illnesses for the same reason.
  • Copies of all diagnostic tests if they have not already been sent to the surgeon by the health care  providers who performed the tests
  • A list of your questions, not only about surgery and treatment, but about reconstruction, should you choose or be advised you need a mastectomy
  • A friend or family member and be sure to go over the list of questions you’ve compiled with the person who will be accompanying you so he or she can remind you of the questions you may forget to ask

To be continued…The Surgical Visit…Breast Cancer Basics

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