Making sure you have the right medical team in place is important to your physical and emotional wellbeing. While it’s normal to want to get your cancer dealt with by the first available specialist, it’s worth taking a little time to make sure you are comfortable with each member of your medical team. Remember, you may have to see these people for a number of years as you go through your treatment and follow up appointments.
You have a choice
While you may initially be referred to one particular specialist, you do not need to stay with that specialist.
If you are unhappy about who you have been referred to, it’s a good idea to seek a second opinion. If you are a private patient, your choice of medical team is largely in your hands.
When looking for a surgeon or medical oncologist, word of mouth goes a long way. If you’re not sure where to start, you may like to get recommendations from other women who have experienced breast cancer.
Who will be on your medical team?
The members of your medical team that you may see may include:
- medical oncologist
- radiation oncologist
- breast care nurse
- oncology nurse.
If you have a strong relationship with your GP, they can also play role in your care. Your GP can clarify any information given to you by your specialists, help you with treatment decisions, and assist you to find practical and emotional support. Ask your specialists to send copies of all tests and planned treatments to your GP.
In Australia it is considered best practice for breast cancer treatment to be managed though a multidisciplinary team (MDT) approach. This means that the health professionals involved in your care meet to discuss the best treatment options for you.
As well as the health professionals listed above, the MDT may include a pathologist and radiologist, and others involved in cancer care.
You can ask your surgeon if a multidisciplinary team is involved in your treatment.
Getting the most out of your medical consultations
- If you can, take someone with you to your medical appointments. Taking your partner or a support person will help them better understand your treatment. They can also take notes in case you forget something later on.
- Try to write down any questions you might have before your appointment. It’s easy to forget things during a medical appointment and having them written down is an ideal reminder of what has been on your mind. Put your most important questions at the top of your list, in case you don’t get time to ask them all.
- The Personal Record provided in the My Journey Kit has a section for you to write down your questions and answers for medical appointments.
- If you think that talking to others will help, join our online network.
- The ‘Find a surgeon’ function on the BreastSurgANZ website provides a list of breast surgeons in your local area.
- The Cancer Australia website has a directory of breast cancer-related services available through public and private hospitals and clinics 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 called the Guide for Women with early breast cancer included in the My Journey Kit. Your specialist may also be able to give you a copy.