You probably want to get your cancer dealt with by the first surgeon possible, but remember it is important you have a good rapport with the people involved in your breast cancer treatment and care. You may have an association with them for many years, with follow-up appointments after your treatment.
'I think it is important to feel comfortable from the start with the [medical] team and feel like you are being heard and listened to. It's important for women to know they can shop around and if they don't know what to ask, be guided by breast care nurses and breast cancer support groups.' --Lucy
Initially, you may be referred to a specialist, but know that you have a choice in who you see. Word of mouth is a powerful reference, so see if you can choose a surgeon or medical oncologist based on recommendations from other women. If you are unhappy about who you have been referred to, we encourage you to seek a second opinion. If you are a private patient, choice of your team is in your hands.
Best practice in Australia is for a woman's treatment and care to be managed through a multidisciplinary team approach. This team may include:
- breast care nurse
- medical oncologist
- radiation oncologist
If you have a strong relationship with your GP, he or she can play an important role and can clarify the information given to you by your specialists, help you with treatment decisions, assist in finding practical support for you and offer emotional support. Ask your specialists to send copies of all tests and planned treatments to your GP.
Getting the most out of your medical consultations
- If you can, take someone with you to your medical appointments. If you take your partner or a support person it will help them better understand your treatment and they can also take notes in case you forget something later on.
- Make a note of any questions you might have before your appointment as it is easy to forget things.
- The My Journey Personal Record in My Journey Kit has a section for questions and space for you to write answers
- Join our online network if you think that talking to others will help
- The National Breast Cancer Audit has a list of participating surgeons
- The Cancer Australia website has information on breast cancer services through public and private hospitals across Australia.
- Cancer Australia also produces clinical practice guidelines for health professionals, which set out standards for the treatment and care of women with breast cancer. These guidelines are available in an easy to read format in the My Journey Kit (called the 'Guide for Women with early breast cancer'). Your specialist may also be able to provide a copy.
- Read 59 of The Beacon (Winter 2012) which includes an article on communicating with your medical oncologist, and an article on seeking a second opinion.