December 25, 2009, Newsletter Issue #111: Be a Proactive Breast Cancer Patient

Tip of the Week

I remember the trip home from my first oncology visit. I was sitting in the back seat of our car and my husband and mother were in the front, discussing my breast cancer treatment plan. They had decided what my treatment would be after talking to my oncologist, and that was that. I was so overwhelmed, I had remained silent at the meeting. It was almost like I wasn't there. Well, that didn't last long. I began seeking information on my own and making my own decisions about my body and my life. Once you are diagnosed with breast cancer, you are bombarded with new, unfamiliar terms. radiation, chemotherapy, the staging system, white blood cell count, in situ, lymph nodes -- all of this new information would make anyone's head spin! It would be easy to hand your treatment decisions over to someone else, but don't. If you need more explanation on any of those terms, ask. Doctors and others on your healthcare team are so accustom to rattling off these terms, they may not be aware that the terms are new and confusing to you. If you can't get help with these terms at your clinic, call the American Cancer Society at 1-(800)-ACS-2345 for some suggested reading materials. Be a proactive breast cancer patient. Use the resources and cancer support services offered by your hospital and in your community to become an informed breast cancer patient. When you learn more about your disease, you will feel more comfortable with your treatment. Talk with other patients and their families about breast cancer treatment. If you feel anxious when you arrive at your clinic for treatment, tell someone. Don't sit through your treatment feeling as though you want to rip out the tubes and run. Your healthcare team can give you medication to relax you during chemotherapy. If you have an aversion to needles and your healthcare team wants to draw blood, ask them for a minute to compose yourself, and let them know this procedure makes you uncomfortable. It's good to have family or a trusted friend with you at oncology appointments to help you remember information your medical team gives you, but it's important that the ultimate decisions about your breast cancer treatment be yours alone. Research suggests that patients who are assertive with their oncology team have better health outcomes than those that are more passive. Be a proactive breast cancer patient so you too will have the best possible outcome.

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