Receiving a cancer diagnosis is disheartening and overwhelming. Those feelings may never completely subside, but being well informed about your diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis, may help you find a sense of control that could help you through such a trying time. To be well-informed, there needs to be good, effective communication between you and your doctor starting with your very first appointment.
Communication Is A Two-Way Street
Good communication is the foundation of a good patient-healthcare provider relationship and can have a significant impact on the quality of care you receive, but good communication isn’t only your doctor’s responsibility. Effective communication is about both giving and receiving information. If you expect your doctor or anyone on their care team to answer your questions, you must be just as willing to answer theirs. Likewise, effective communication is based on understanding. Depending on the type and stage of your cancer, your doctor may not be able to give you a straight answer to one or more of your concerns. This does not necessarily mean that he or she is not knowledgeable. It may just be that there is no easy answer or even any answer. However, if you find that your healthcare team doesn’t have answers much of the time, it may be a good idea to get a second opinion.
Which Questions to Ask
Knowing you need information is the easy part. Knowing what questions you need to ask to get that information is more difficult, which is why the reveal23 team would like to pass on this very helpful list of Frequently Asked Questions, courtesy of City of Hope:
— Can I get a copy of my diagnosis?
— What stage of cancer do I have? What does that mean?
— What kind of support do you have for me and my family?
— What are my treatment options?
— Which treatments do you recommend for me? Why?
— Would a clinical trial be right for me? Can you help me find one?
— What medical records should I bring to treatment?
— What are the possible side effects and risks associated with each treatment?
— Can anything be done to control the side effects?
— What are the expected benefits of each kind of treatment?
— How long is it going to take for me to recover from treatment?
— Will I be able to go to school or work during treatment?
— What are the chances of the cancer coming back?
— Will I have more than one kind of treatment concurrently?
— How will my treatment change over time?
— How long will the treatment take?
— Will I need to stay in the hospital? If so, for how long?
— What should I do to prepare for treatment?
— Can I go to and from treatment alone? Should someone else go along with me?
— What can be done to help me feel more comfortable during treatment?
— Can a family member be with me during treatment?
— How will treatment affect my normal activities?
— Should I get a second opinion?
— How often should I have checkups during treatment?
— What is the treatment likely to cost? Will my insurance cover the cost?
— After treatment, what problems should be watched for? If I have questions during my treatment and my doctor is not available, who I can ask?
Never feel uncomfortable asking a lot of questions! It’s your life on the line.