Important decisions are always hard to make,
particularly when they concern your health.
However, there are a number of things you can do to make
decisions about breast cancer treatment easier. One is gathering
information. You can:
- Talk with your doctor
. There are a number of
treatments that may be used for breast cancer. To make sure you
will be comfortable with your decision to have a particular
treatment, you may want to get another medical opinion.
- Gather additional information from published
. Many articles and books have been written about
breast cancer for patients and professionals. There is also much
information available about cancer in general. Some recommended
reading materials are listed at the back of this booklet. Others
are available at local libraries and may be available through local
offices of the American Cancer Society.
- Call the Cancer Information Service (CIS)
program, sponsored by the National Cancer Institute, is available
to answer questions about cancer from the public, cancer patients
and their families, and health professionals. Call this toll-free
number and you will automatically be connected to the CIS office
serving your area: 1-800-4-CANCER. Spanish-speaking CIS staff
members are also available.
- Ask your doctor to consult PDQ
. The National
Cancer Institute has developed PDQ (Physician Data Query), a
computerized database designed to give doctors quick and easy
access to the latest treatment information for most types of
cancer; descriptions of clinical trials that are open for patient
entry; and names of organizations and physicians involved in cancer
care. To access PDQ, a doctor may use an office computer with a
telephone hookup and a PDQ access code or the services of a medical
library with online searching capability. Cancer Information
Service offices provide free PDQ searches and can tell doctors how
to get regular access. Patients may ask their doctor to use PDQ or
may call 1-800-4-CANCER themselves.
Some of the other things you might want to do before making a
final decision about various treatments are:
- Discuss them with friends or relatives
you and your doctor are in the best position to evaluate treatment
options, it sometimes helps to discuss your feelings with others
whose judgment you respect. Often, close friends and relatives can
provide insights that can help your own thinking.
- Talk with other women who have had breast cancer
Many women who have been treated for breast cancer are willing to
share their experiences. Your local American Cancer Society (ACS)
office may be able to direct you to such women through its Reach to
Recovery program. This program, which works through volunteers who
have had breast cancer, helps women meet the physical, emotional,
and cosmetic needs of their disease and its treatment. Some ACS
offices have volunteer visitors who have had a mastectomy, breast
reconstruction, radiation, or chemotherapy. Sometimes they are able
to meet with women before surgery. Contact your local ACS office
for more information.
Remember that you have time to consider options. Except in rare
cases, breast cancer patients do not need to be rushed to the
hospital for treatment as soon as the disease is diagnosed. Most
women have time to learn more about available options, make
arrangements at medical facilities where treatments will be given,
and organize home and work lives before beginning treatment. A long
delay, however, is not advisable because it may interfere with the
success of your treatment.