Living with cancer blog
Making the tough choice on cancer treatmentBy Lonnie Fynskov, R.N.
By the time you read this, you've probably made dozens of decisions for the day. Some, such as deciding whether to hit the snooze button one more time, really don't make much of a difference in the big scheme of things. Decisions related to cancer treatment options, however, weigh much heavier in our mind.
With the focus on evidence-based medicine, we look to research to help us understand how effective the various treatment options may be, what are their expected side effects, how frequently do those side effects occur, etc.
Sometimes the options are equally effective, but present the possibility of very different side effects and future treatment needs. That was the situation for someone I spoke with last week who had just learned her breast biopsy report was positive for ductal carcinoma in situ.
Her choice was one of two surgeries that would give her the same clinical outcome, according to the evidence. This decision determined the follow-up radiation plan and hormone regime. She was told "the choice is yours to make." Wow or ugh?
Both breast cancer and prostate cancer patients may be presented with treatment options and told they can decide how to proceed.
Healthcare providers know people handle situations in their own unique way. Some prefer a less invasive surgery with more long-term medical management, while others choose a more involved surgery with less post-operative follow-up treatment.
Because we're all different, it seems like it would be wonderful to have more than one treatment option. But we're also all different in our comfort level with making that choice.
Some people take the information, confidently make a decision and don't look back. Others prefer to have the experts weigh in on what they feel is best because they have the experience and wealth of knowledge already in hand.
A new diagnosis of cancer is incredibly stressful, and this stress can make it even more difficult to make decisions. As the significance of the decision increases, so does the anxiety that the wrong option may be chosen.
If you were given more than one treatment option, how did you make your decision and how did you deal with the emotions that accompanied that process? Please share your decision method so we can learn from each other in these situations.