When Breast Cancer Doctors Collaborate, Women More Satisfied

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Breast cancer treatment usually requires the expertise of a medical oncologist, a surgeon, a radiation oncologist, and often, a plastic surgeon. Ideally, all these doctors collaborate with each other as a woman moves from one phase of treatment to the next.

Still, this coordination doesn't always happen as it should. Many women sense that their care is handed off from one doctor to another without ongoing coordination between all of them.

A study found that women whose doctors actively collaborated throughout the course of breast cancer treatment were more satisfied with their treatment than women whose doctors didn't collaborate.

The results were published in the Dec. 15, 2011 issue of Health Services Research.

For this study, surveys were sent to:

  • women treated for breast cancer, asking about their treatment experience and satisfaction
  • the doctors who managed the women's care, asking how they practiced and if they collaborated with each other or not

The researchers matched the responses of 441 women with the responses of the doctors who cared for them and found that the more doctors actively collaborated with each other, the more satisfied with treatment a woman was likely to be.

While this study didn't specifically look for a link between doctor collaboration and care quality and care outcomes, it's reasonable to suspect that there also may be a link between better coordinated care and treatment quality and outcomes.

If you've been diagnosed with breast cancer, you should expect your doctors to actively collaborate with each other -- and with you -- throughout your entire treatment journey. One way you can help make sure this happens is to clearly establish -- from diagnosis on -- what your needs and expectations are, both in the way your doctors relate to you and the way you want them to work together.

Another way you can help is by asking each doctor at each appointment if the other doctors on your team are aware of your status and have talked about your treatment. It also helps to remind each doctor how important coordination of care is to you.

Help your treatment team help you in the best way possible. There is only one of you and you deserve no less than the best care.

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