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Questions to doctor about cancer

Talking to your doctor can be difficult if you have cancer. No matter what your diagnosis, simply hearing about it can leave you feeling frightened or overwhelmed. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to make communicating with your doctor easier.

Studies have shown that clear communication between doctor and patient can help you feel better about your choices, and can even improve the quality of care you receive.

Remember That You Are the Consumer

As a patient, it is important to remember that you are a consumer of health care. Just as you would not purchase a car without asking questions, neither should you be afraid to ask questions about your doctor or your treatments. The way to begin making difficult decisions about health care is to educate yourself.

The following are some tips that will help you talk to your doctor:

  • Bring someone with you.

It may not seem necessary, but it is a good idea to bring someone with you when you have an appointment. It is always helpful to have support, a second set of ears, and another person to think of questions.

  • Write out a list of questions beforehand.

When you are discussing something as important as your health, it is easy to become nervous or upset. A list will help you remember important questions. Make them specific and brief because your doctor has limited time. Ask your most important questions first.

  • Write down the answers you get.

Writing down answers will help you remember your doctor’s responses and instructions, and will help you understand as much later as you did during the visit.

  • If possible, bring a tape recorder.

It is OK to ask your doctor if you can tape record your visit. Taping is helpful because you may find yourself wanting to hear a reassurance or diagnosis again, or share it with friends and family.

Make Sure You Understand What You Are Saying and Hearing

When you are talking to your doctor, use “I” statements. For example, the phrase “I don’t understand…” is much more effective than “You’re being unclear about…”

Also, don’t be afraid to be assertive. If you don’t know what a word means, ask about it.

Remember to make your questions specific and brief. If there is something you can’t understand or resolve, ask your doctor if there is some other time that you can discuss it in more detail.

Finally, if something seems confusing to you, try to repeat it back to your doctor. For example, “You mean I should…” If you think you will understand better with pictures, ask to see x-rays, slides, or have the doctor draw a diagram.

Questions That Can Help in Cancer Treatment and Follow-Up

Questions to doctor about cancer

Here are some questions that you may want to ask your doctor or nurse. They will help you begin to learn about how treatment will affect you.

  • What is the recommended treatment?
  • How often?
  • What are the side effects?
  • What are the benefits vs. the risks?
  • How much will it cost?
  • Are there treatment choices?
  • Is there anything else I should be asking?
  • Is there anything I can read about this?

Besides your doctor, use your entire health care team — nurses, social workers, and medical personnel – as resources.

The Most Important Thing to Remember! Talking will help you get better care and improve the quality of your life.




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