Talking with Your Health Care Team

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Doctors Facing Camera
Credit: Getty

There is a lot to learn about cancer and your treatment. There are many things to remember. And if you’re scared or confused, it can be even harder to take it all in. But, there are things you can do to make it easier to learn.

Express yourself clearly. Describe your problem or concern briefly.

Ask your doctor or nurse to write down the name and stage of your cancer. There are many different types of cancer. "Stage" refers to the size of the cancer tumor and how far it has spread in your body. Knowing the name and stage of your cancer will help you find out more about your cancer and help your doctor decide which treatment choices you have.

Learn about your treatment choices. Ask your doctor to tell you about your treatment options. Ask how each treatment can help and which side effects you might have. Try to learn all you can about each choice. Let your doctor know if you need more time to think about these issues before you choose one.

Ask as many questions as you need to. Your doctor needs to know your questions and concerns. Write down your questions and bring them with you to your visit. Ask your most important questions first, in case the doctor runs out of time. If you have a lot of questions, you may want to plan extra time to talk.

Don't worry if your questions seem silly or don't make sense. All your questions are important and deserve an answer. It's okay to ask the same question more than once. It's also okay to ask your doctor to use simpler words and explain terms that are new to you. To make sure you understand, use your own words to repeat back what you heard the doctor say.

Take someone with you when you see the doctor. Ask a family member or friend to go with you when you see your doctor. This person can help by listening, taking notes, and asking questions. If you can't find someone to go with you, ask your doctor if he or she will talk with a friend or family member over the phone.

Take notes or ask to record your conversation with your doctor. Many patients have trouble remembering what they talk about with their doctor. Take notes or ask if you can record the conversation.

I told the doctor when I first met him that I needed honesty from him; otherwise I didn't want to work with him.


  • Posted: December 2, 2014

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