Avva is dedicated to improving the treatment experience for breast cancer patients. As part of this mission, we've started the Avva Caregiver Campaign to raise awareness of the benefits of bringing a companion or caregiver into doctor's visits.
If your mother, sister, spouse, or any other family member or close friend was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, your first question after the initial shock subsides may well have been,
"What can I do to help?"
It's hard to know where to start after such a life-changing event for you and your loved one. It can be difficult to bring up the subject, or to ask how you can help without feeling overbearing. But no matter what, there is one simple thing that everyone can do. Something that a wealth of research has shown to have a tremendous positive impact on a breast cancer patient's treatment. Something that is nearly universally recommended by physicians and patient advocates.
Accompany your loved one to each and every visit with physicians, or make sure that another caregiver or companion does.
A breast cancer diagnosis can be incredibly overwhelming. Even besides the emotional burden, it's often a time of informational overload, where patients meet with many doctors and learn about their diagnosis and treatment options. Even at the best of times, it's difficult for anyone to take in and understand all of this information. Add in the emotional toll of a cancer diagnosis and it's not surprising that patients have a difficult time understanding and remembering important information from their doctors.
When a caregiver or companion accompanies a breast cancer patient, more of the patient's questions are asked and answered. More of the patient's needs are communicated to the physician and addressed. More of the key information from the physician is retained and recalled in the future. It's a simple thing that makes a big difference.
As a caregiver, you can make sure you're prepared to be as helpful as possible at your loved one's next visit with the doctor. You can follow the guidelines below to help your loved one make the most out of her next visit and ensure that key medical information is not forgotten.
Make a list of questions for the doctor ahead of time. You'll have limited time with the doctor, and making the most of that time means coming in prepared with questions. Prioritize them in case there isn't enough time to get to every one.
Listen carefully and note down answers to each question. You'll often find yourself coming back to look at the answers to questions asked at past visits.
Record your conversation during the visit. The visit often goes by quickly and the conversation is packed with important information. By recording the visit, you'll make sure you won't miss a second of it.
Be assertive. Make sure every question gets asked and answered. Your doctor does his or her best to be helpful, but is often pressed for time and usually expects you or the patient to speak up with concerns rather than waiting to be asked.
Note down next steps and action items. Often, there's important next steps – tests to be done, other specialists to see. Keep a careful record of these action items.