Dr. Marisa Weiss, physician, patient advocate and survivor, discusses how taking an active role in your healthcare is more important than ever.
Interacting With Your Healthcare Team
If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, become an active participant in your care by proactively engaging with your healthcare teams to help make those critical decisions about your personal treatment plan.
The oncologist, as well as the nursing and support staff that make up a patient's care team, are advocates for each individual patient's healthcare, and are valuable resources for answering questions you may have about any aspect of your cancer diagnosis and treatment. The team will review your personal profile together with you to determine the right approach to your care.
You should feel comfortable bringing your ideas and questions to any member of your healthcare team. They will help you understand the unique elements of your diagnosis and can explain what medications or procedures will be appropriate for your own personal needs.
Remember, no question is off limits. And if you don't understand something, never hesitate to ask for an explanation. Additional assistance and guidance on your journey can be found by reaching out to a nurse, social worker or even a counselor.
Understanding Your Treatment Options
A diagnosis of breast cancer can be overwhelming at first, and will take some time to fully comprehend. Be sure to get a full review of your diagnosis with your doctor, or schedule a second appointment to address the details of your disease in more detail. Take the time to learn what you can about your disease and understand your options using reliable online resources and materials available from reputable healthcare organizations.
Breast cancer today can be a manageable condition. With new technologies, a variety of approaches are available for patients to consider as you work with your healthcare team to plan your care. Treatment options will frequently include surgery to remove the tumor, along with other therapeutic options such as chemotherapy or radiation.
Patients diagnosed with very early stage cancer may not necessarily be recommended for chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is usually recommended if the cancer is present in the lymph nodes, since it can spread easily from there, or if the patient is diagnosed with more aggressive types of breast cancer. Additional therapies may be considered as part of your treatment program to help further reduce the risk of a possible recurrence.
The goal is to ensure you have the best possible treatment experience, with as few side effects as possible, while giving you the best possible chance for long-term health.
Making Healthy Choices
Beyond the medical components of cancer care, living a healthy lifestyle is also extremely important. Incorporating healthy choices into your daily life will help improve your body's ability to fight breast cancer.
Weight loss is one of the most important lifestyle changes to make. Losing weight is not easy, but patients need to make it a priority to manage their weight. Talk with your doctor about a healthy weight goal and identify ways to integrate physical activity into your current lifestyle that you'll be able to maintain and enjoy over time. Remember, small simple steps can add up to a big difference.
Nutritional choices are also important to consider throughout your life, particularly while going through breast cancer treatment. Minimizing alcohol intake, quitting smoking, and taking vitamins tailored to your needs are all shown to improve the odds of success when fighting disease. Vitamin D, in particular, is a valuable nutrient to take daily through a supplement. Ask your doctor about vitamin D or other vitamins that may be beneficial for you.
Importantly, don't be afraid to ask for support. Talk with other women who have undergone a similar experience and find out what support resources are available in your community. Eliminate other stressors in your life to ensure you can focus on healing.