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How To Choose the Best Oncologist for You (VIDEO)

Written by Ted Samson
Posted on March 29, 2024

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Transcript

00:00:00:00 - 00:00:12:16
Becky
I’ve asked my oncologist and my radiologist more than once, “What would you do if it was your wife or your mother?” They’re always very honest.

00:00:12:18 - 00:00:39:11
Becky
I think people living with metastatic breast cancer have to decide on their own what treatment is the best for them. There’s tons and tons of treatments out there. A lot of it is is dependent on who you live with, how you want to spend your day, and if you’re going to let it completely control every minute of your life — or if you’re going to be able to have a life.

00:00:39:13 - 00:01:04:00
Becky
So my choices were always to have more of a life than be sick day after day after day. I’m very pushy about my treatment. I only want to see the doctor on Monday. I don’t want my whole week, you know: Go to the doctor. Get a shot. I don’t want that. I want to at least have it out of my mind for the rest of the week.

00:01:04:02 - 00:01:26:04
Becky
There have been times when I have had to advocate for myself to get different options. You’re the one who’s in control, so whatever you want to do should be done, but the doctor has the knowledge, so you have to be able to communicate. Well, with the last chemo, when I took it and I said, “I just can’t do this — I was in bed for three days,”

00:01:26:06 - 00:01:53:01
Becky
he said, “OK, let’s just switch it out. We’re not going to do it anymore.” I would tell women who think they aren’t getting the best care to just keep shopping. Look for someone who’s going to listen to you. I think when you find an oncologist that you can relate to, that your treatment, although it’s wicked, you have someone that you know, you can call and say, “I just can’t handle this.

00:01:53:01 - 00:02:15:21
Becky
“It’s just not going to work for me,” and they’re going to give you other options. Drugs are coming out every day. The drugs I’m on right now were not here five years ago, so everything is changing, and what works for you works for you. If it’s not working for you, go on to the next treatment.

00:02:15:21 - 00:02:25:23
Becky
My name is Becky Caroll, and I live with metastatic breast cancer.

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MyBCTeam member Becky Caroll has become well acquainted with various breast cancer treatments over the course of her breast cancer journey. After Becky was initially diagnosed with stage 2 HER2-positive breast cancer in 2014, her cancer gradually metastasized (spread) to her bones and brain over several years. Through it all, she’s played an active role in working with her health care team to choose treatments that best meet her personal needs — and she urges others with breast cancer to do the same.

“There’s tons and tons of treatments out there. A lot of it is dependent on who you live with, how you want to spend your day, and if you’re going to let it completely control every minute of your life or if you’re going to be able to have a life,” she said. “So my choices were always to have more of a life than be sick day after day after day.”

Finding an oncologist who listens to you and understands your personal needs is an essential part of finding the right treatment plan, Becky explained. “They’re all compassionate people, they’re all very empathetic,” she said. “But we have to look for someone that our personality can relate to.”

Also important, though, is being a communicative self-advocate and standing firm on what you do and don’t want. At one point, Becky tried chemotherapy but found the side effects to be intolerable — so she let her oncologist know. “I said, ‘I just can’t do this. I was in bed for three days,’ and he said, ‘OK, let’s just switch it out. We’re not going to do it anymore,’” she said.

Becky is now on a treatment plan that allows her to live her life on her terms. Though she’s no longer able to work full time as a teacher like she used to, she volunteers three days per week at the school, helps with a refugee program, is active with several breast cancer support groups, and makes time for family, friends, and daily walks to the park or beach with her dog.

Her active lifestyle is a testament to her resilience and commitment — and also to a strong relationship with her health care team that’s built on clear, honest communication. “I’ve asked my doctor, my oncologist, and my radiologist more than once, ‘What would you do if it was your wife or your mother?’ And they’re always very honest," she said.

Becky’s advice to anyone who doesn’t think they’re getting the best care from their doctors is to “just keep shopping.” Similarly, she noted that the breast cancer treatment landscape has evolved significantly in recent years, which means people have more options. She recommended others remain open to starting a new treatment — and also open to switching if that treatment doesn’t work. “Put a little time limit on you and just move forward with it,” she said. “And what works for you works for you. If it’s not working for you, go on to the next treatment.”

Find Your Team

On MyBCTeam, the social network for people with breast cancer and their loved ones, more than 69,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with breast cancer.

How is your relationship with your oncologist and the rest of your health care team? What advice do you have for others? Share your experiences in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

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In 2018, Becky’s HER2-positive breast cancer diagnosis took a turn for the worse when back pain led to the discovery that the cancer had spread to her bones.

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Becky finds ways to balance her metastatic breast cancer treatments with volunteer work, traveling, and socializing with friends and family.

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Posted on March 29, 2024
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Ted Samson is a copy editor at MyHealthTeam. Learn more about him here.

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