Your Healthcare Team Leader: You
Despite the invaluable experience and expertise of your doctors, you remain the most important part of your healthcare team. Empower yourself and feel more in control of your healthcare by taking an active role in your treatment. You should always feel comfortable asking questions, requesting that your doctor repeat information if you do not understand it and making sure you understand your doctor’s reasons for choosing a specific treatment.
Never let your healthcare team think of you as just a statistic or a prognosis: you deserve to be treated like the individual that you are. As a vital part of your healthcare team, you have a lot to contribute by working with your doctors to treat your breast cancer. You deserve to have a good relationship with them, so make changes if communication or decision making aren’t making you happy.
The Right Team for You?
Give your medical team a critical eye—make sure they work well for you. Some important things to consider:
- How much experience does your team have treating your type of breast cancer in young women?
- How comfortable do you feel communicating with your healthcare team? How available do your doctors make themselves if you need to call or email with questions or concerns?
- If you have just been re-diagnosed, do you want to see the doctors from your previous diagnosis again, or would you like to take this opportunity to get a different perspective?
You can help ensure your medical team gives you the care you deserve by choosing a well-prepared facility. YSC recommends a comprehensive cancer center or large teaching hospital experienced in the unique issues young women face. In many cases, you can get a second opinion from another doctor at one of these centers. Search the National Cancer Institute (NCI) list of designated Cancer Centers to find your nearest center.
If it is too far to travel for regular treatment, they will often coordinate care with your local doctors. We can help you get there, too—find resources for travel assistance in YSC’s ResourceLink Guidebook.
Keep these important points in mind when building a healthcare team that works for you:
- Ask for recommendations from friends you trust, a nurse or doctor with whom you have a strong relationship or anyone else who can offer insight and support.
- Consider communication and working styles and know what matters to you. How do you work best? Do you want someone with a great bedside manner and time for a lot of questions? Some doctors will develop treatment plans, go over them with you and leave the ultimate decision up to you. Others will simply let you know their decisions. Think about which method you prefer.
- As often as possible, see specialists. You’ll benefit from consulting someone who can take the time to read up on all the latest treatments and stay current on new standards of care. A generalist usually can’t offer that.
You’ll see some important specialists who can provide support throughout your care, including medical and radiation oncologists, surgeons, nutritionists, oncology nurses, genetic counselors, fertility specialists, social workers and counselors.