Make the most of your next metastatic breast cancer doctor’s appointment

New tool to help make the most of your next metastatic breast cancer doctor’s appointment

(BPT) – Some people diagnosed with advanced or metastatic breast cancer would like to talk to their doctor about everything that may be affecting their treatment and health. But when the average visit lasts only 15 minutes, it can be difficult to cover all of the information needed during an appointment.

While it’s not possible to control the amount of time one has with a doctor, it’s important to make that time count. In 2014, Novartis Oncology conducted a survey of women with metastatic breast cancer, caregivers and oncologists to better understand how to help patients and loved ones work with their health care team to improve gaps in communications. The survey found 92 percent of patients said it was important for their doctor to discuss long-term treatment goals, yet only 53 percent reported this actually took place.

The focus of conversations with doctors and other members of the health care team (e.g., nurses) may change throughout the metastatic breast cancer journey — from initial diagnosis, to switching treatments or to managing side effects from treatments. Regardless of where someone is in his or her treatment path, it’s important to be honest and proactive in sharing treatment needs with health care team members.

“There’s no doubt a patient can feel rushed or sometimes uncomfortable discussing certain topics with their oncologist, but having an open and honest conversation is important to receiving the best care possible,” says Amy Lessack, metastatic breast cancer patient and advocate, Living Beyond Breast Cancer board member.

Patients can create a personalized discussion guide at by answering six brief questions online. The responses create a custom guide outlining key information specific to their needs, as well as useful tips and core questions to consider asking their doctor at his or her next appointment. As circumstances change or priorities shift, patients or their loved ones can return to the site and develop an updated discussion guide based upon their current needs.

“Tools like the Make Your Dialogue Count personalized discussion guide, can help empower patients to feel organized, educated and in control of their treatment and the disease. It can also potentially help doctors more quickly understand what’s most important to the patient at the time of their visit,” Lessack says.

To create a personalized metastatic breast cancer discussion guide visit

12/15 BST-1129772