Choosing Your Doctor
Your Doctor Patient Relationship
From the time you are diagnosed with breast cancer, you will work with a team of cancer specialists that may include:
- A medical oncologist
- A surgical oncologist
- A radiation oncologist
- A care-manager/caseworker/nurse navigator or patient navigator
Your healthcare team may also include an oncology nurse and a registered dietitian.
Can You Ask Questions And Get Answers You Can Understand?
Finding the right team, one that consists of professionals with whom you are comfortable, makes a big difference in how your treatment will progress. Your physicians should be knowledgeable, of course, but they should also welcome questions and be able to explain your treatment options to you in a way you can understand.
Do you understand your treatment goals and why particular treatments are recommended?
Once you’ve identified your team, your doctors can describe your treatment choices, the expected results, and the possible side effects you may experience.
Are Your Concerns Treated With Respect?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions; raising your concerns—even those that you may think will be viewed as trivial—with your oncology team will help you better understand your options and provide your doctors with insight into what is important to you. Today, there are many treatment options available to you. Work with your team to find the right combination for you.
Do you feel comfortable sharing with your medical team about what you have learned regarding your condition?
Do your research. Speak with support groups and breast cancer survivors. The more information you gather about your treatment options from reputable sources, the better decisions you’ll make. You can also ask your care team what resources they can give you to help you better understand your diagnosis and treatment.
Do You Know The Parts Of Your Treatment Plan That Are Up To You?
Remember that while your doctors can make recommendations and provide options, the final decisions regarding your treatment are yours. With good research from reputable sources, you can have confidence in the path you take. By embracing your part, you’ll give yourself the best odds for a long and healthy life.
When Is A Second Opinion A Good Idea?
Having a second opinion can help you be certain of your optimal treatment plan and healthcare partnering decisions. You will have less anxiety if you can cultivate a sense of trust and care with your doctor. In addition to quality care and good treatment decisions, your peace of mind is an important part of the equation.
Here some ideas that may be important to consider regarding second opinions:
- Most breast cancer doctors are very comfortable with their patients seeking a second opinion.
- Many health insurance companies will pay for a second opinion if you or your doctor requests it, and some companies require a second opinion.
- If you get a second opinion, the doctor may agree with your first doctor’s diagnosis and treatment plan. Or the second doctor may suggest another approach. Either way, you’ll have more information and perhaps a greater sense of control. You may also feel more confident about the decisions you make, knowing that you’ve looked carefully at your options.
- It is important to be sure that treatments you receive are in keeping with the NCCN treatment guidelines. So consider printing off the NCCN Guidelines for Patients document. It contains the guidelines for treatment based on stage of the disease and prognostic factors of the tumor that are considered the gold standard nationally.
- It may take some time and effort to gather your medical records and see another doctor. Usually it’s not a problem if it takes you several weeks to get a second opinion. In most cases, the delay in starting treatment will not make treatment less effective. To make sure, you should discuss this possible delay with your doctor. Some women with breast cancer need treatment right away.
- There are many ways to find a breast cancer doctor for a second opinion. You can ask your doctor, a local or state medical society, a nearby hospital, or a medical school for names of specialists.
Medically reviewed June 2023