National Breast Cancer Coalition

How to Talk to Health Care Professionals

Why would I talk to my doctor’s office, local cancer center or health care professional about breast cancer?

The medical field is constantly changing. New and innovative research results are released on a regular basis in all areas of medicine. It is important to talk with health care professionals to make certain they are aware of the most relevant scientific evidence related to breast cancer. While it is possible that research from 10 years ago still applies today, most often there are a number of new studies with up-to-date recommendations backed with evidence. Doctors, nurses, researchers and others in the health care profession deliver messages about breast cancer detection, prevention, treatment and care. We want to be sure that the messages delivered are both accurate and complete.

For example, when it comes to treatment, a doctor may suggest a mastectomy over a lumpectomy. However, a mastectomy – completely removing the breast – is usually not more effective than a lumpectomy (cutting out the cancer). It may be warranted in some circumstances and it may be a personal choice.  But make certain all the information is being given to women in your community about this and other issues.

In another area – detection – there may be pamphlets or other resources at your doctor’s office, support center or clinic that promote breast self-exam (BSE). Evidence actually shows that BSE does not save lives, or detect breast cancer at an earlier stage. And it could lead to harmful, unnecessary biopsies and anxiety. It is important to discuss this issue and others with health care professionals to make certain they are up-to-date on the most current evidence-based information, recommendations and best practices.

As consumers of the health care system, we must make our voices heard with those in positions of authority to ensure that the system serves the patient’s needs and that decisions are made based on scientific evidence.

How do I talk to my doctor’s office, local cancer center or health care professional about breast cancer?

  1. First, visit the office or website of the health care professional. Take a survey of the types of messages that are being shared about breast cancer detection, prevention, treatment and care.
  2. Review the 31 Myths & Truths about breast cancer and use the resources at BreastCancerDeadline2020.org to find information that is important to you that you would like your health care professional to share with others. All of NBCC’s position statements, fact sheets and analyses are based on scientific research and are carefully fact checked. Using the website you will be able to: cite research, download materials, read position papers and keep up to date on legislative “happenings on the Hill.”
  3. Also visit BreastCancerDeadline2020.org for more specific health care related information about breast cancer, including research analyses and in-depth science articles.
  4. Request a meeting with the health care professional or someone who manages the office/clinic to discuss the information shared with visitors and patients about breast cancer. Explain why this issue is important to you personally. Emphasize that you are concerned and want to ensure that others in the community have access to helpful and accurate resources.
  5. When you meet with the health care professional, bring information that you’ve gathered from the 31 Myths & Truths and BreastCancerDeadline2020.org. Mention that your facts are backed by the National Breast Cancer Coalition.
  6. Ask your doctor’s office or health care professional to be sure that public information, as well as individual patient guidance, is based on scientific evidence. Ask them to remove materials that provide misinformation and replace them with resources such as those you’ve identified on NBCC’s websites.
  7. Send a thank you note to express your appreciation.