Although a diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer is serious, it’s not hopeless. “The most important thing that I want my patients to know is that there is hope,” says Natalie Berger, MD, hematologist and oncologist at The Mount Sinai Hospital. “Today, we have so many new treatments and options available for our patients.”
Knowing that you have an opportunity to survive longer and even thrive may help empower you to be an active member of your breast cancer treatment team. Research shows that those who are involved in their treatment tend to be more confident about the process and even have better treatment outcomes.
Want to be more engaged in the treatment process? Here are tips to talk to your doctor during appointments for metastatic breast cancer treatment:
1. Ask about your treatment options
It’s tempting to let your doctor make all the decisions and just be a passive recipient of those choices, but it’s important to remember that there are many treatment options available, and an important factor in which treatment is right is how it might affect your life.
Treatment options for metastatic breast cancer may include:
While not every patient is a candidate for every treatment option, there may be more than one option that’s right for you, and your input can help make the treatment process more tolerable for you.
2. Ask about side effects
“Side effects are always a very, very scary part of cancer treatment, probably one of the most scary parts, so it is so important to sit down with your doctor and ask them questions to better understand what side effects are,” says Dr. Berger.
Hearing about side effects can feel overwhelming, but knowing the potential side effects can alleviate some stress about what’s going on. Some side effects can also be treated to further improve the process. For example, here are ways to manage pain and fatigue from metastatic breast cancer treatment.
“Most of the side effects are not going to happen to everybody, so it's really important to know that even though we tell you about all these different side effects, chances are, you won't experience most of these, but we just want to let you know so that you're aware and prepared,” says Dr. Berger.
3. Ask about the treatment schedule
“It's important to talk to your doctor about the treatment schedule, about how often you have to come in for office visits, because all of those things may help influence which choice of treatment is best for you,” says Dr. Berger.
4. Write down your questions
“The most important thing to prepare for an appointment with your doctor when discussing treatments is writing down your questions, because as soon as you walk into the office and your doctor starts talking to you, you may forget a lot about what you wanted to ask,” says Dr. Berger.
The more you understand your treatment process, the more confident you’re likely to feel throughout the process. This can help alleviate stress and anxiety about your metastatic breast cancer treatment, and can help you clear up myths about metastatic breast cancer.
5. Bring someone with you
Your questions may be written down so you don’t forget them, but it can be easy to forget the doctor’s answers. This is why it may help to have a trusted friend or family member at your appointments with you to act as an extra set of ears. You could even ask them to take notes during the appointment.
It’s okay to still feel stressed even though you’re doing all of the above actions. Dealing with a cancer diagnosis can bring a lot of emotions, and everyone processes them differently. Here are self-care tips to cope with metastatic breast cancer.