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Being a Responsible Patient

Accountability is a two-way street. As a breast cancer patient, you are responsible for:

  • giving your doctors correct information,
  • being respectful to doctors and other health care workers,
  • saying when you don't understand something, and
  • doing what you say you'll do.

But please remember: your breast cancer is not your fault. We don't know what causes breast cancer. But we know that it isn't caused by one thing that women do or don't do. Nothing we know says, "Do X and get breast cancer," or "Do Y and don't get breast cancer." Many known risk factors are out of your control. These include:

  • being a woman,
  • age,
  • family history,
  • genetics,
  • getting your first period earlier, and
  • reaching menopause later.

What You Can Do:

Be honest with your doctors.

It's hard to tell your doctor when you're doing something unhealthy. (Smoking and not exercising are examples.) But they need that information to understand your health care needs. It might also be hard to tell a doctor that you're trying an herb or a special diet. They might not approve. But something you are taking could affect other parts of your treatment. You have to give doctors the whole picture to get the right care.

Be responsible for your choices.

You have to live with your health care decisions. This is true no matter how many doctors work with you. So you need to understand your choices. That way you can feel comfortable and confident about what you decide.

Be prepared to take some matters into your own hands.
In the end, you are your own best watchdog for getting what you need.

Evidence-Based Coverage

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2001, 2002, 2006 National Breast Cancer Coalition Fund
Last reviewed: March 2006