As women cope with cancer and cancer treatment, the American Cancer Society encourages them to have honest, open discussions with their doctors. They should feel free to ask any question, no matter how small it might seem.
Here are some questions women might want to ask. Nurses, social workers and other members of the treatment team also might be able to answer many questions.
- Would you write down the exact type of cancer I have?
- How does this affect my treatment options and outlook?
- May I have a copy of my pathology report?
- Has my cancer spread to lymph nodes or other organs?
- What is the stage of my cancer? What does that mean in my case?
- What treatment choices do I have? What do you recommend? Why?
- Should I think about taking part in a clinical trial?
- What are the risks or side effects of different treatments?
- What should I do to get ready for treatment?
- How effective will breast-reconstruction surgery be if I need or want it?
- Will I have normal sensation in my breasts after my treatment?
- Will I lose my hair? If so, what can I do about it?
- What are the chances of my cancer coming back with the treatment you suggest? What would we do if that happens?
- Should I follow a special diet or make other lifestyle changes?
- Will I go through menopause as a result of my treatment?
- Will I be able to have children after my treatment?
- What are my chances of survival, based on my cancer as you see it?
Women also might want to ask about recovery times so they can plan work or other schedules.
Taking another person or a tape recorder to doctor visits can be helpful. Keeping copies of your medical records, pathology reports and radiology reports might be useful in case you wish to get a second opinion.
WHEN TO SCREEN
The American Cancer Society recommends these screening guidelines:
- Yearly mammograms are recommended starting at 40. The age at which these are stopped should be individualized by considering the potential risks and benefits of screening in the context of overall health status and longevity.
- A clinical breast exam should be part of a periodic health exam, about every three years for women in their 20s and 30s and every year for women 40 and older.
- Women should know how their breasts normally feel and report any change promptly to their health care providers. A breast self-exam is an option for women starting in their 20s.
- Women at increased risk for breast cancer because of factors such as family history, genetic tendency and past breast cancer should talk with their doctors about the benefits and limitations of starting mammography screening earlier, having additional tests or having more frequent exams.
For more information, call the American Cancer Society at (800) ACS-2345 or visit www.cancer.org.
-- Morris News Service