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Tips From Nurses

Tips from Nurses on Working with Your Medical Team

These tips are from Stephanie Streed, RNC, CBPN-IC, breast health coordinator and nurse navigator at Porter Adventist Hospital Breast Center, Denver, CO.

Be sure the cancer doctor you want to see takes your insurance. If not, you will need to select another doctor and schedule an appointment, which takes extra time.

Ask your doctor or hospital, “Who is my nurse navigator?” A nurse navigator for breast care can help answer your questions and guide you through the complicated health care system. The nurse navigator works with your entire medical team to coordinate and act as your advocate.

Learn about your diagnosis. There are many kinds of breast cancer. Learning what specific type you have can help you better understand your condition and the treatment recommended. Ask your doctor, nurse navigator, or oncology nurse to explain your diagnosis.

Be organized. There is a lot of information to keep track of when you are newly diagnosed. Being organized can help you feel more in control. Consider keeping a portable file or three-ring notebook where you can keep your appointments, contact information for caregivers, pathology report, lab results, prescriptions, and any other information you find useful.

Bring a friend or family member with you to appointments, because two sets of ears are better than one. Always have a paper and pen so you can write down your questions and answers. It may even be helpful to bring a tape recorder so you can review the discussion when you get home.

It is OK to seek a second opinion. Seeing a second doctor about your diagnosis and planned treatment is a good idea. A second doctor can confirm that the treatment your doctor is planning is consistent with standards of practice and national guidelines. The second doctor may also have access to clinical trials that apply to your situation.

Never be afraid to ask questions. If you don’t understand something you’ve been given to read or that you are told, ask for an explanation. It’s OK to ask questions more than once. Your doctors and others know that repetition is necessary and helpful.

Be an informed internet user. The internet is a good tool, but it can be challenging to sort out information that is credible and applies to your situation. Seek out reputable websites such as Susan G. Komen for the Cure (http://ww5.komen.org), the American Cancer Society (http://www.cancer.org), and Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/breastcancer.html).

Take care of your emotional health. Going through a cancer diagnosis and treatment is a very difficult time. There is great value in a support system, which can include family, friends, and others who have had a similar experience. This Directory lists support groups and resources in all areas of the state. Healthy eating and exercise, even just getting out for fresh air, can help you to refresh and renew. Be open with your caregivers about the distress you are having, including consistently not feeling like eating and not being able to sleep.

Ask about a “survivorship plan.” As you prepare to move beyond your cancer treatment, ask your physician to provide a survivorship plan. The plan answers the question, “What comes next after treatment?” by outlining how often to see your physician and other caregivers, when to have a follow-up mammogram, when to have other tests, and other issues that apply to your situation. 

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