One of the most frustrating fear-fuelling issues surrounding breast cancer is that of the mythology that has grown around the bare, hard facts of what breast cancer really is. This is why ABC is tackling the issue of empowering people to ask their doctors about anything and everything they need answers to.
Patients need to know – and have the right to – as many breast cancer facts and as much information they need, in order to feel empowered to make decisions about how they will understand and live with their cancer. The general trend seems to be that patients don’t ask their questions – either because they don’t know they can and should, or because there is a language and/cultural barrier where the patient feels inadequate or afraid to raise their voice in questions and concerns. The questions that beg asking are:
- Do our government patients know they can and should be asking doctors the questions that they need definitive, understandable answers to?
- Are our government staff trained to work with patients where there is a language or cultural barrier?
- Do they have time to be as empathic as they should – or is understaffing a problem that needs solving?
- Do the patients know what questions to ask, or how to ask them during an appointment? How can we empower people to be assertive with their health care providers? Patient education and empowerment regarding communications is crucial; it is not only the doctors who need teaching!
No single patient has the same needs as another: both in terms of their cancer-type (no two cancers are exactly alike), as well as their lifestyle and psychological needs. This is why each individual needs to get highly specific-to-them and trusted information so they can effectively deal with the clinical, medical, physical, emotional and social aspects of their breast cancer.
A BIG RED CAUTION: random internet trawling is definitely not the place to find the information and answers you need. The internet is useful in becoming part of an online support group where you can share your feelings and ideas with other patients and survivors. If you’re tempted to visit Dr Google, do so with caution!
The American-based breast cancer advocacy organisation, the National Breast Cancer Coalition’s Breast Cancer Deadline 2020, created an infographic about 31 Breast Cancer Truths (Click here.) These are truths the whole world needs to know: survivors, their family and friends — and those who are still strangers to BC.