Working with your doctor when you have metastatic breast cancer: Interview with a Mayo Clinic expert

Hearing your doctor tell you that you've got metastatic breast cancer can be shocking. Once you've had a chance to gather your thoughts, make time to have a conversation with your health care provider and your loved ones about next steps.

Here, Mayo Clinic oncologist Timothy J. Moynihan, M.D., shares his advice on what issues to discuss with your health care provider and loved ones.

Many different treatment options for metastatic breast cancer exist. What factors should guide my treatment choices?

Discussing treatment goals is a critical conversation to have with your health care provider and loved ones. Some questions to get the conversation started include:

  • How aggressive do you want to be? Depending on how you are feeling right now, age or other factors, you may or may not be able to tolerate more-aggressive treatment.
  • Aside from the cancer, how is your health otherwise? Do you have other medical conditions to consider?
  • Is having children in the future a concern for you? Talk to your doctor about your fertility options and how that may affect your treatment plans. Ask for a referral to a fertility specialist if you have questions.
  • What quality-of-life issues are most important to you during this time? Are you willing to put up with side effects of treatment such as fatigue and nausea that may negatively affect your day-to-day life but could prolong your life and time with loved ones?
  • How important is pain and symptom control to you? Discuss with your doctor how your pain will be managed or if there are complementary medicine methods that may help you cope.
  • Do you have health insurance? If the cost of treatment is a concern for you, let your doctor know. There may be lower cost options, such as generic drugs, or financial assistance available.

I hear about new cancer treatments in the news all the time. Are there any experimental treatments I should consider?

Ask your doctor if you're a candidate for a clinical trial. Eligibility depends on many factors, including where you live, previous breast cancer treatments and individual characteristics of your condition. A searchable listing of clinical trials is available at clinicaltrials.gov.

March 22, 2017 See more In-depth