How to Choose Your Physician
The first and most important decisions you will make are choosing your medical oncologist, and also your surgeon. If you are having surgery, your surgeon is also part of this stage. To begin the process, ask your family doctor or your primary care doctor for a referral, especially if you have had a long relationship with him. Then share with your oncologist your medical history and what is important to you, your fears and concerns, and any personal factors that will have an impact on your treatment decisions. This will help you and your doctor review your options for treatment and decide on the treatment that best suits you.
This is one time that you do not need to be concerned about hurting anyone's feelings. It's okay to meet with two surgeons or oncologists and decide that you are more comfortable with one than the other. For example, as you go along this process, you learn of a physician in a nearby community, perhaps two hours away, who is considered an expert in the field of breast cancer and you want to see what this doctor can offer you as far as your breast cancer treatment. So you must be prepared to consider factors such as traveling to receive treatment, personal lifestyle, and family responsibilities when choosing your oncologist. These factors may sway you to receive local treatment or you may find that receiving breast cancer treatment from the doctor far from your home is better suited to your needs.
In Her Own Words
Luckily, all my doctors and nurses and the entire staff have been extremely approachable. I had to stress to my doctors that I have a needle phobia. Don't be afraid to share, the more you tell them, the more they can work with you. One-on-one conversations are the best way to communicate, and luckily, all of my doctors were kind enough to make that time for me. I also stress that bringing a friend/family with you when you meet with your doctor is key. There is so much information; it is difficult for one person to collect it all. Take lots of notes and save them.
— Pat, age 49, 6-month survivor
If you treat your doctor as your partner, it helps empower you as you seek information about your options for care. You may want to only understand the basics or you may choose to become well-versed in breast cancer treatment. However, try not to become an expert in the field by yourself, guided only by your own principles. Whichever approach you choose, it is important that you are comfortable with your doctor and that he supports your decisions. In other words, choose a doctor who matches your needs and philosophy of care. For example, if you are a believer in complementary therapies and are an active participant in yoga practices, it may be important for you to incorporate this into your treatment plan. When searching for a doctor for your breast cancer treatment, you may ask if he is a proponent of your personal practice of yoga or if he has a strong opinion about it or any similar forms of complementary therapies. You make want to make your oncologist decision according to how important something like that is to you.
Once you have decided on your doctor, it is a good idea to ask if he would like to take you on as a new patient. This starts the process of open communication with your doctor that will build your future relationship and gives the doctor an opportunity to express his concerns about your breast cancer treatment decisions. Establishing open communication early on in your treatment will set you and your doctor up for a win-win situation.