National Breast Cancer Coalition

Getting the Right Treatment at the Right Time

We need a health care system that provides the right treatment, at the right time, every time. There are still many questions about breast cancer treatment. But there is overwhelming scientific evidence that many treatments work well for many breast cancer patients. Breast cancer treatment can, and often does, save lives.

There is only one reason why a breast cancer patient should not have the most effective treatments available: because the patient herself, informed and educated, decided against it. Sometimes it takes years for better treatments and care practices to make their way into the health care system. This is unacceptable. Our health care system must deliver evidence-based care to every patient. That means everyone, regardless of where they live, gets the most effective treatment known, based on the most recent scientific evidence.

There are many people and groups involved in your health care:

  • doctors
  • nurses
  • your health plan or insurance company
  • hospitals, and
  • cancer centers

Who is responsible for making sure you get the right treatment at the right time? The answer is all of these people and groups. Patients should not have to wonder if they are getting the most effective treatment available. They should be able to assume that they are.

Sadly, right now, our health care system doesn't have to report on the care it delivers or explain why some of its patients don't receive standard care. And until we pressure the health care system to do this, patients sometimes have to work hard to be sure they are getting the right care at the right time.

What You Can Do:

Read this guide cover to cover.

This guide contains our best advice about getting quality breast cancer care. You may hear some of our advice elsewhere. But you probably won't hear much of it anywhere else. For specific treatment decisions, start by reviewing some national guidelines. Click here for more information on guidelines. If your doctor hasn't recommended the standard of care, ask why.

Be a good advocate for yourself.

Remember that many kind and helpful doctors and nurses may not be providing the most up-to-date care. It may not be one person's fault. And while you're choosing your treatment, it probably isn't helpful to focus on who is to blame. The point is that you should be getting the most effective treatment at the most effective time, unless you specifically refuse it. NBCC thinks that the more informed you are, the more likely it is you'll get the best treatment for you.