How do doctors make treatment decisions?

If you have been given a breast cancer diagnosis, your doctor will need to understand certain factors about your cancer including the stage and subtype of your tumour. This will help to determine which treatment may be most beneficial.

How does your doctor use clinical information about treatments?

Your doctor will begin the treatment decision process by looking at the medical information about you and your secondary breast cancer, as explained above. Based on this information, there may be several different treatment options available to you.

There are a number of key considerations for doctors when assessing possible treatment options:

Treatment Efficacy - the efficacy of a treatment is how well it is working in reducing the size and spread of your cancer.
You may hear your doctor use terms like 'PFS' and 'OS' to describe the efficacy of a treatment.

  • PFS is progression free survival - This is how well the treatment works to prevent the cancer progressing any further. It is often defined as a number of months
  • OS is overall survival - This is the additional amount of time someone is expected to live because of their breast cancer treatment. It is often defined as a number of months or years

Quality of Life - Different treatments can impact the quality of your life. 'Quality of Life' measures look at how well you are feeling when on treatment. This can be just as important as efficacy when making a treatment decision.

Adverse Events - Treatments can cause side effects. Doctors often describe these side effects as adverse events. Your doctor can discuss with you what side effects you might experience on treatment.

What else will your doctor need to know?

Your doctor will make treatment decisions based on a number of medical and clinical factors and there are many of them to consider. However, there is much more to life than cancer and your medical information is only part of the overall picture. Each person is unique, and your doctor needs to know what matters most to you.

It’s important for you to understand the benefits and drawbacks of different treatments and to have this conversation with your doctor as soon as possible.

In the next section, we provide some additional information for what you could share with your doctor to ensure you feel part of the decision-making process. The aim is to find a treatment that fits around your lifestyle where possible.

It is important to remember that if your treatment stops working and your cancer progresses, there may still be other options available to you. Ask your doctor for more information.