Oncology nurse Theresa Brown shares Amy Berman’s decision to forego aggressive treatment for her Stage 4 inflammatory breast cancer diagnosis in favor of palliative care aided by a health care team who respected her individual values and needs to receive care on her own terms. Recognizing the importance of the patient’s perspective, Brown encourages all caregivers to talk to their patients, giving each person the opportunity to understand the risks and benefits of all treatments. Just as Amy Berman had the chance, Brown states, “All patients should all be able to make the same kind of choice.”

In late October 2010, Amy Berman, a registered nurse and a senior program officer at the John A. Hartford Foundation in New York City, received a diagnosis of Stage 4 inflammatory breast cancer. This Stage 4 cancer is always metastatic, meaning it has spread to other parts of the body. There is zero probability of a cure, though five-year survival rates vary for individuals.

Knowing this hard diagnosis, Amy was clear from the beginning that she wanted a “good quality of life for as long as possible,” and she found an oncologist who supported that choice. But she also wanted to confer with a known expert on her specific type of breast cancer and, with the encouragement of her doctor, traveled to get a second opinion.

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