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Communication in Cancer Care (PDQ®)

  • Last Modified: 03/06/2013

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Talking with the Health Care Team



Patients and family caregivers can get ready for medical appointments.

It is helpful for patients and caregivers to plan ahead for doctor visits. The following may help you get the most out of these visits:

  • Keep a file or notebook of the patient’s medical information that includes test and procedure dates, test results, and other records. Bring this file with you to the medical appointment.
  • Keep a list of names and doses of medicines and how often they are taken. Bring this list with you.
  • Use only trusted sources, such as government and national organizations, if you do research about the medical condition. Bring this research with you to discuss with the doctor.
  • Make a list of questions and concerns. List your most important questions first.
  • If you have a lot to discuss with the doctor, ask if you can:
    • Schedule a longer appointment.
    • Ask questions by phone or email.
    • Talk with a nurse or other member of the health care team. Nurses are an important part of the health care team and can share information with you and your doctor.
  • Bring a tape recorder or take notes so that later on you can listen to or review what you discussed.
  • Bring a family caregiver or friend to the doctor visit so they can help you remember important information after the visit.

Patients and family caregivers should talk before the appointment to help get ready for possible bad news or information that is different than expected.

Patients and caregivers can make a checklist of specific questions about treatment.

When talking with the doctor, ask specific questions about any concerns you have. If an answer is not clear to you, ask the doctor to explain it in a way that you can understand. Include the following questions about the patient's treatment:

  • What medical records should the patient bring to treatment?
  • What can the patient do ahead of time to get ready for treatment?
  • How long will the treatment take?
  • Can the patient go to and from treatment alone? Should someone else go along?
  • Can a family member be with the patient during treatment?
  • What can be done to help the patient feel more comfortable during treatment?
  • What are the side effects of treatment?
  • After treatment, what problems should be watched for? When should a doctor be called?
  • Who can help with questions about filing insurance claims?