Once you have a diagnosis, it's easy to drown in worry. This is usually driven by a lack of information. This is a list of key questions you can ask your healthcare provider once your initial breast cancer diagnosis has been made. Answers to these questions will help alleviate concerns and give you an idea of what the path ahead will be like.
The first thing you will want to know are what verifications and tests will be done to create a treatment plan. It's rare that the initial diagnosis will be followed by a clear treatment plan recommendation, as further tests are likely required to get more detailed information on your specific condition. So find out from your doctor what the planned testing will be and how soon you can get them done.
Next, make sure that your doctor knows you'd like a second opinion and whether they have a recommendation for another physician for you to consult for that. In most places, the medical community is relatively tight knit, so your doctor will likely know a specialist or someone who is more knowledgeable about breast cancer who will give a better second opinion than would a general practitioner or family provider.
Once you have a treatment plan in place, there are more key questions you can ask.
Who will coordinate treatment?
Your physician rarely does the overall coordination for your care. This is usually left to a nurse or practitioner on his or her staff. To go along with this knowledge, you should also find out who will be the key players in your treatment team and what their specifics jobs are. You will likely have several nurses and technicians as well as specialists helping with your care.
What is the goal of each treatment in the plan?
Every treatment step has a specific goal. Usually the goal is to either lessen or eliminate the cancer or to improve your well being in-between those treatments. Knowing the goal for each treatment step will help you better utilize the treatment. Especially those you have a lot of input with, such as dietary planning and physical therapy. You will also better understand what you can do to prepare yourself for each treatment step.
Will you have access to and can you provide input for an electronic health record system?
Many doctors and hospitals are moving to e-records and giving secured patient access to those records. Often patients are given their own ability to add notes or complete questionnaires and surveys that might otherwise be done in an uncomfortable waiting room, saving time. These systems also often allow for alternative communications methods such as email or text.
What are the options for payment for care and is there a patient advocate who can help?
Most hospitals and networks have payment setups, billing plans, and information about resources for helping alleviate the costs associated with breast cancer treatment. They will also have specialists who can go over your health insurance plan and let you know what is or isn't covered and why.