Making Decisions About Treatment
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 reports . 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) . This 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 . Although 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.