The best advocate? Yourself.

This entry was written by Elyse Spatz Caplan, MA, our director of Programs & Partnerships.

As we move into a new year, some of you may be feeling overwhelmed. You’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer and have to make significant decisions about treatment. You may be asking yourself: what should I do? What is the right decision for me? What do the experts say?

Remember: you have options. Presenting your personal goals to your physicians can help them design plans that effectively treat breast cancer while preserving your quality of life.

In December, we grappled with these issues at the 32nd annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Sympoisum (SABCS), where Living Beyond Breast Cancer manned (or should I say “wo-manned”) an exhibit table. Nearly 10,000 researchers and physicians from more than 80 countries convened at this four-day meeting to present the year’s most interesting research findings and to discuss implications and possibilities for future research. Advocates are highly valued at SABCS, which is why non profit, survivor-focused, organizations (like us!) are offered complimentary exhibit tables so that others can learn more about what we do.

As an 18-year breast cancer survivor, it is always amazing to see so many people come together to discuss how we can improve treatment for women with breast cancer. While we work hard with the scientific community to advance the prevention and treatment of women and families affected by breast cancer, it is not enough to simply look at the medical aspects of care. What good is all of this if the treatments developed to prevent or treat breast cancer cause side effects or other problems that significantly impact one’s day-to-day life?

It’s also important to look at the way women go about receiving care. I have watched the paradigm shift over the past decade and even longer… there is no longer a physician-directed approach to care but rather a more patient-directed approach that involves a lot of conversation between physicians and the women who consult with them. Quality of life is an important endpoint for many women and men and was never really discussed before. I’m seeing more and more women becoming advocates for their bodies, their health, their lives.

And so, we usher into 2010 with hope and optimism for improved methods of diagnosis, new techniques to treat breast cancer, and more attention to the psychosocial concerns of women living with a history of breast cancer.

Get more from SABCS at our free teleconference this Wednesday–January 6. Listen by phone or online without leaving home. Ask questions and get the answers you need for the stage you’re at. We’re here to help you get the most up-to-date information in order to have the best quality of life possible.











2 thoughts on “The best advocate? Yourself.

  1. Excellent post, Elyse. You’re right. Women are taking a far more aggressive participation in their own treatment. I’m fortunate where I’ve been with my oncologist for over ten years and trust him implicitly. I know that he’s on top of my treatment and is able to recommend the most up to date routes.

  2. Thanks, Liz! That’s great you trust your healthcare team–it’s so important to be proactive and stay up-to-date. What do you recommend for women who may not feel comfortable with their current healthcare team?

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