Breast cancer treatment guidelines


Cancer care and cancer treatment often do not seem like transparent processes. The decisions made by one's oncology team are not a secret, but they can seem secretive and they can seem random. This experience tends to leave the patient feeling powerless and scared at a time when they are most vulnerable.

The reality is that oncologists are not making secretive or random decisions about one's cancer care—rather, they are more than likely following evidence-based treatment guidelines that have been published by one of several governing bodies in cancer care, such as the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), or perhaps the most widely-used and most influential treatment guidelines, those published by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), the 21 hospitals and cancer centers in the US that are closely associated with research, clinical trials. and with the National Cancer Institute.

Determining which hospital uses which treatment guidelines is simple enough—just ask. Private health care networks, such as Kaiser Permanente, have their own guidelines, while places such as Stanford University Hospital will use the NCCN's guidelines. Community hospitals that seem to have no obvious affiliation, meanwhile, likely will require

that the patient simply ask a member of their oncology team.

Breast cancer guidelines

Up until 2010, organizations such as the ASCO and the NCCN published their treatment guidelines, but since they remained written for doctors and other health care professionals, their information remained slightly out-of-reach for the average patient. The NCCN has changed that with the launch of the NCCN Guidelines for Patients, and while they are slowly publishing these guidelines—written in language that patients can understand—one of the handful they have already published is their breast cancer treatment guidelines.

The NCCN's breast cancer treatment guidelines for patients can be accessed and downloaded HERE (which opens as a PDF file), or readers can visit this NCCN page to learn more about the guidelines before downloading them.

It is important for breast cancer patients to keep in mind that if they are so inclined they have every right to demand to know the basis of every decision made by their oncologist; to have their treatment explained to them in clear language; and to have a say in the direction of their treatment.

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