Making Medical Decisions That Work for You
What is shared decision-making?
Shared decision making is a collaborative process that allows patients and their healthcare team to make health-related decisions together. This process takes into consideration the most up-to-date clinical information and research, in addition to the patient’s goals, preferences, and values. 1
This process brings experts together in the planning of your care – with the healthcare team as experts in medicine and breast cancer treatment, and you as an expert in your own personal feelings and what’s important to you. While you may not feel like an expert, you are an expert in yourself! It’s important to recognize that you have a voice in the decision-making process. While it is important to be involved in all aspects of your healthcare, to the level you are comfortable with, shared decision-making is most appropriate in situations where there is more than one medical option available.1
The process helps to ensure that patients are fully informed of all of their options, including the risks and benefits of these options, and that the things that are most important to the patient are taken into consideration.
What questions should I ask?
After a breast cancer diagnosis, you may feel overwhelmed and in a daze. It can be hard to fully absorb all of the information that is being presented to you. Asking questions can help to ensure that you and your healthcare team are on the same page. Below are some questions that may help:
- What type of breast cancer do I have?
- Should I get a second opinion?
- Are there any other diagnostic tests I should have?
- Has my breast cancer tumor been tested for genetic mutations?
- What is the stage of my breast cancer?
- Has the cancer spread to any other parts of my body?
- What treatment options are available for my type of breast cancer?
- What are the pros and cons of these treatments?
- What can I expect from treatment?
- Will I need to stay in the hospital during treatment?
- How long will treatment last and how often will I receive treatment?
- What is the goal of my treatment?
- How do you determine if treatment is working?
- What happens if the treatment is not working?
- Does my insurance cover this treatment?
- Who is part of my care team? What are they responsible for?
- Are clinical trials an option for me?
- Where can I learn more or get support to make the right decision for me?
- Will this treatment affect my fertility or chances of having a baby in the future?
- How often will I have appointments and/or scans?
- Who should I contact if I have questions in between appointments?
- Who handles health insurance and payment questions in this office?
- What symptoms or side effects are considered emergency symptoms?
- What happens when my treatment course is completed?
- Are there special resources I should be aware of? (for ex: support groups, financial resources or programs, etc.)
- Are there any resources to help me or my family cope?
Each person and each case of breast cancer is different. What matters most is that you feel comfortable with your care team and your treatment plan! Asking questions is an important part of managing your care and ensuring you and your care team have decided on the best plan for you!
The questions you choose to ask will be unique to your situation; and, just as your needs and priorities may fluctuate, your questions may change over time. What questions have you found to be helpful? Share your thoughts and ideas with the community!
Do you find it easy to advocate for yourself?