Making the Most Out of Your Next Advanced Breast Cancer Doctor's Appointment
Dec 03, 2015
By AnneMarie Ciccarella, patient advocate, blogger
I know first-hand that every minute of a doctor’s appointment counts – especially when the average visit lasts only 15 minutes. Having had breast cancer myself and now acting as a care-helper (or caregiver) for my mother since she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, I know it can be difficult to get all of the attention and information you need while the clock is ticking during your appointment.
Many of us go into our appointments hoping to have all of our questions answered, so we can walk away understanding our doctor’s recommendations and knowing we made the most informed decisions about our treatment plan. However, we are often left trying to make sense of a process that leaves us with more questions than we had before the appointment. It turns out this feeling is universal. A recent survey found that many women living with metastatic breast cancer wish they had more time to discuss their needs with their doctors. The reality is that time is limited, so as patients, caregivers or those who wish to help empower others, we need to make sure we are getting the information that matters most to us during our visits.
I had the pleasure of reviewing and providing my thoughts on a new tool developed by Novartis Oncology, which aims to help patients have better and more efficient discussions with their healthcare teams.
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Deciding ahead of time what you most want to get out of your visit can help you organize your thoughts and shape how you and the doctor spend your time together. Patients or caregivers create a personal discussion guide by answering six, brief questions. The responses produce a discussion guide outlining key information specific to their needs, as well as useful tips and core questions to consider. As circumstances change or priorities might shift, the beauty of this tool is the ability to return to the questionnaire and receive an entirely new discussion guide based upon real time situations.
Women with metastatic breast cancer have different physical and emotional needs. There are critical differences in the management of metastatic disease. Having tools available, like the Make Your Dialogue Count Personalized Patient Discussion Guide, can help to empower patients to maintain some sense of control over their treatment and help identify personal concerns and discussion points that may not have been obvious until seeing the discussion guide produced using input that matters to each patient. Every patient is different and every voice should have the opportunity to be heard.
AnneMarie Ciccarella is breast cancer patient presently 7 years post active treatment and currently NED. With no known BRCA mutation, there have been four diagnoses of breast cancer in her immediate family. An avid blogger with an active social media presence, AnneMarie has participated in Novartis sponsored ABC blogger summits. Her focus is on research and meeting the needs of the metastatic community. While this was always an area she felt strongly about, it took on an entirely new meaning when her mom’s disease metastasized after a twenty-year dormancy.