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Your doctor will recommend the best treatment for you after taking into account all the factors explained in the treatment overview| section.
Most doctors understand that you may want some time to think about their recommendations, and to talk it over with your family or friends.
Before you have any treatment, your doctor will explain its aims. They will usually ask you to sign a form saying that you give permission (consent) for the hospital staff to give you the treatment. No medical treatment can be given without your consent, and before you are asked to sign the form you should be given full information about:
If you don’t understand what you’ve been told, let the staff know straight away, so they can explain again. Some cancer treatments are complex, so it’s not unusual for people to need repeated explanations.
It’s a good idea to have a relative or friend with you when the treatment is explained, to help you remember the discussion. You may also find it useful to write a list of questions before your appointment.
Patients often feel that hospital staff are too busy to answer their questions, but it’s important for you to know how the treatment is likely to affect you. The staff should be willing to make time for your questions.
You can always ask for more time if you feel that you can’t make a decision when your treatment is first explained to you.
You are also free to choose not to have the treatment. The staff can explain what may happen if you don’t have it. It’s essential to tell a doctor or the nurse in charge, so they can record your decision in your medical notes. You don’t have to give a reason for not wanting treatment, but it can help to let the staff know your concerns so they can give you the best advice.
Many people are frightened at the idea of having cancer treatments, particularly because of the side effects that can occur. However, these can usually be controlled with medicines. The doctor giving you the treatment will be able to answer your questions about this.
With secondary breast cancer, the aim of treatment is to prolong life, control the cancer, relieve symptoms and improve quality of life. Most women find that treatment shrinks the cancer or stops it from growing. However, for some women the treatment will have little effect on the cancer and they’ll get the side effects without any of the benefits.
Making decisions about treatment in these circumstances is always difficult, and you may need to discuss in detail with your doctor or specialist nurse whether you wish to have treatment. If you choose not to have it, you can still be given supportive (palliative) care, with medicines to control any symptoms.
Your multidisciplinary team (MDT) uses national treatment guidelines to decide the most suitable treatment for you.
Even so, you may want another medical opinion. If you feel it will be helpful, you can ask either your specialist or GP to refer you to another specialist for a second opinion. Getting a second opinion may delay the start of your treatment, so you and your doctor need to be confident that it will give you useful information.
If you do go for a second opinion, it may be a good idea to take a relative or friend with you, and have a list of questions ready, so that you can make sure your concerns are covered during the discussion.
Content last reviewed: 1 September 2010
Next planned review: 2013
For answers, support or just a chat, call the Macmillan Support Line free (Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm)
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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