You are an important member of your healthcare team. Here’s how to be a great self-advocate.

Being a self-advocate means taking an active role in your care. Even though your healthcare team has lots of experience treating breast cancer, remember that you are the expert on yourself. You are an important and equal member of the team.

Self-advocacy includes asking questions and being involved in your care. You will have many decisions to make. Being educated and informed will help you make the choices that are best for you.

Maybe you’ve already advocated for yourself to get the right diagnosis. When breast cancer is diagnosed early, you’ve got more care options and a better outlook.

It’s also important to tell your care team if you notice any other changes in your health. It’s always best to catch changes early.

Advocating for the best care does not mean you need to know everything about breast cancer. It’s your healthcare professional’s job to know the latest and best treatments. Your job is to ask questions, let them know when you don’t understand something, and tell your team how you’re feeling.

Here’s how to be your own best advocate.

close up of woman turning pages of a bookShare on Pinterest
Getty Images/Antonio Santos

Take time to learn more about your breast cancer, including its type, stage, and treatment options. You can ask members of your healthcare team to explain anything you don’t understand.

Depending on your clinic, you may be able to connect with a patient navigator. This is a healthcare professional who can spend time with you to educate you about early breast cancer, what your diagnosis means, and potential next steps. They can also direct you to other resources, such as organizations, books, and websites.

woman talking to doctor before mammogramShare on Pinterest
Getty Images/izusek

Your healthcare professional can read scans, check blood work, and physically examine you to learn about your health. But they don’t know what it’s like to be you.

You’re the only one who knows what your symptoms are like and how you’re feeling. Let your team know about any changes you notice in your physical and emotional health.

Share on Pinterest
Getty Images/Westend61

After you receive a breast cancer diagnosis, you likely have a lot of questions. It’s a good idea to write them down before each visit so you don’t forget to ask the questions that matter to you.

Your questions will guide the appointment and help your care team understand what you need. Make notes about any symptoms or health changes you’ve noticed so you can keep your team updated.

Share on Pinterest
Getty Images/FG Trade

Self-advocacy doesn’t mean you have to do this alone. And appointments can be overwhelming.

Many people find it helpful to bring a friend or family member to each visit. Your loved one can take notes and act as an extra set of ears. It’s also nice to have emotional support.

After the appointment, it can be helpful to talk it all over with someone else who was there, too.

Share on Pinterest
Getty Images/FG Trade

There can be a lot of information to take in at appointments. You should feel free to keep asking questions during each visit if there’s anything you don’t quite understand.

If you get home and you’re still not sure about something, write it down. You can bring these questions to your next appointment. You can also contact your doctor’s office before then if you need to clarify details about medications, follow-up appointments, or upcoming procedures.

Share on Pinterest
Getty Images/FG Trade

You have every right to a second opinion. Doctors are used to people asking for a second opinion, so no need to worry about offending anyone. In fact, doctors often consult with each other on patient care, too.

A second opinion can help to confirm that you and your care team have created the best treatment plan for you. It’s also a chance to hear about other approaches to care.

Share on Pinterest
Getty Images/FG Trade

Clinical trials help researchers and doctors learn more about breast cancer. Treatments that are routinely used today started as clinical trials. Clinical trials can be a chance to try a different treatment that is not yet widely available.

Ask your doctor or clinic staff about any clinical trials that you might be able to participate in.

Share on Pinterest
Getty Images/Maskot

Support groups are a great way to connect with others who are going through a similar situation. It can help to know you’re not alone. Support groups give you a chance to learn more or get recommendations for healthcare professionals.

Ask your doctor or patient navigator if they can recommend any in-person or virtual support groups for you to join.

When you receive a diagnosis of early breast cancer, you are your own best advocate. Self-advocacy means that you are an equal member of your care team.

Take time to get educated about your diagnosis and your treatment options. Ask questions until you feel confident that you understand the plan. And let your loved ones and care team know how you’re feeling and what you need.