People with cancer often want to take an active part in making decisions about their medical care. It is natural to want to learn all you can about your disease and treatment choices.
No matter how professional, educated or analytical you are normally, the shock and stress after a cancer diagnosis can make it hard to remember what you want to ask your healthcare provider. There are several ways to ensure you remember and understand everything your provider tells you:
(1) Ask a family member or friend to come to the appointment with you. This person can remind you of questions you want to ask or they want to understand and also help you remember, later, what the doctor said. It can be easier for you emotionally over the long run to have this "key" person keep your family and friends informed of your medical condition. This will help your family and friends feel included without burdening you with answering too many questions or having to repeat the same things over and over.
(2) Make a list of questions. There is right or wrong number of questions. No silly question and no set timeline for all your questions to asked or answered.
(3) Be honest about your symptons and about how you feel both physically and emotionally.
(4) Ask your healthcare provider if you my use a tape recorder during appointments for later review. If this is not possible take notes or have your family member or friend take notes for you.
(5) Ask for clarification if you do not understand what you are being told. Sometimes, without realizing it, providers use terms their patients are not familiar with and do not understand. If you don't understand something it's important to ask for clarification.
(6) Remember to keep an open mind and the channels of communication open with your loved ones. You may want their help in making decisions or helping you sort things out, so keeping them up to date and informed may be in your best interest.
Remember, everyone has a different style of communication. That's why the perfect health care provider for one person may not be a good match for YOU! Consider what you value in a doctor. Some people feel more comfortable with a provider who will share information in a clinical and businesslike manner. They expect their medical provider to be a medical expert rather than a friend.
Other people want their provider to have an excellent "bedside manner". They value a provider who can address both their emotional health and medical needs. Many people whose illnesses require treatment over long periods of time prefer this kind of friendly relationship with their doctor. After you have thought about what it is you want and prefer as a patient, the next step is to look at how you communicate with the doctor you have chosen.