Breast Cancer: Getting Support

What If I Become Unable To Make Decisions About My Health Care?

You may want to consider advance directives, such as living wills and durable power of attorney.

The living will exercises a patient's right to refuse or accept medical treatment that artificially prolongs his/her life and provides clear instructions regarding the patient's choice of extended medical care.

This document is prepared while the patient is fully competent, in case he/she becomes unable to make this decision at a later time.

The durable power of attorney for healthcare is the right of patients to appoint another person to speak for them if they become incapable of expressing their medical treatment preference. An attorney should devise this document so that it conforms to state laws and court precedents.

Should I Write A Will?

No one likes to think about his or her own mortality, but everyone should have a will to ensure that those who survive you will know how to carry out your wishes. This document should be prepared with your attorney.

What Should Family Members And Friends Keep In Mind?

The diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer is a time of stress and may be difficult for family and friends. Here are some tips for family and friends of someone diagnosed with breast cancer:

  • Feel free to ask the doctor questions if you accompany your loved one to her appointments.
  • Be prepared for changes in your loved one's behavior and mood. Medications, discomforts, and stress can cause her to become depressed or angry.
  • Encourage your loved one to be as active and independent, as possible, to help him or her regain a sense of self-reliance and confidence.
  • Be realistic about your own needs. Be sure you are sleeping enough, eating properly, and taking some time off for yourself. It is hard to offer much help when you are exhausted. If you take care of your needs, it may be easier to meet the needs of your loved one.
  • Don't hesitate to ask other family members and friends for help. They will appreciate the opportunity to help.

Reviewed by the doctors at The Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Center.

Edited by Charlotte E. Grayson, MD, WebMD, February 2004.

Portions of this page copyright © The Cleveland Clinic 2000-2004

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