If you have secondary breast cancer you should have regular hospital appointments to check how well you are physically and emotionally. You should also have the name and number of someone in your specialist team to get in touch with at any time if you have any questions or concerns.
You may have blood tests while you are at the hospital. Some people have a blood test for tumour markers. Tumour markers are substances found in the blood that may help monitor how your breast cancer is responding to treatment. They are not widely used because doctors don’t agree on how reliable they are and they’re rarely used on their own to make decisions about starting or changing treatment.
Scans and x-rays may not be routinely done but may be planned by your oncologist to see how the secondary breast cancer is responding to a new treatment or if you have new or worsening symptoms.
If you’re taking part in a clinical trial you will usually be monitored more frequently, depending on the requirements of the trial.
Feeling comfortable with your specialist team can make a positive difference to how you feel about your treatment and care. Some things may be hard to discuss but being prepared for your hospital appointments and knowing what information you need to get from them may help.
1. Prepare for your appointment
Write a list of what you want to discuss, including how you’re feeling physically and emotionally, any new or continuing symptoms or side effects and any questions you have. You might want to share any information from diaries, symptom charts or your patient record sheet. You can download patient record sheets, fatigue and pain diaries from our patient resources page.
2. Take support
If you’re able to, go with a family member, close friend or someone you trust. They can support you, listen to the information you’re given and make notes you can read later. You may also find it helpful to talk to your supporter later and discuss any decisions you have been asked to make about your care.
3. Say what you want to say
It helps healthcare professionals to care for you effectively if they know what your concerns are and what information you would like. Don’t be afraid to say what’s on your mind.
4. Get answers to your questions
Healthcare professionals know that it’s important for a patient’s wellbeing to have their questions answered. If you don’t feel you’ve had an answer to your question, or don’t understand any information you’ve been given, ask again. Sometimes it’s not possible to give a definite answer to a question, but your healthcare professional should be able to explain why if this is the case. You can ask for a copy of the letter which is usually sent to your GP by your specialist if you’d like to re-read the information.
Patient record sheet
You may want to use patient record sheets and take these with you to your appointments. They can help you to monitor your condition, write down questions and take notes. You can download these and other helpful resources from our patient resources page.