Communicating With Your Breast Cancer Team
As you manage your cancer, it’s important to remember that you are a consumer of health care. The best way to make decisions about health care is to educate yourself about your diagnosis and get to know the members of your healthcare team, including doctors, nurses, dietitians, social workers and patient navigators. In addition to creating a treatment summary, here are some tips for improving communication with your healthcare team:
Start a healthcare journal. Having a healthcare journal or notebook will allow you to keep all of your health information in one place. You may want to write down the names and contact information of the members of your healthcare team, as well as any questions for your doctor. Keep a diary of your daily experiences with symptoms related to your illness or treatment. You can separate your journal or notebook into different sections to help keep it organized.
Prepare a list of questions. Before your next medical appointment, write down your questions and concerns. Because your doctor may have limited time, you should ask your most important questions first, and be as specific and brief as possible.
Bring someone with you to your appointments. Even if you have a journal and a prepared list of questions or concerns, it’s always helpful to have support when you go to your appointments. The person who accompanies you can serve as a second set of ears. He or she may also think of questions to ask your doctor or remember details about your symptoms or treatment that you may have forgotten.
Write down your doctor’s answers. Taking notes will help you remember your doctor’s responses, advice, and instructions. If you cannot write down the answers, ask the person who accompanies you to do that for you. If you have a mobile device, ask if you can use it to take notes. Writing notes will help you review the information later. Record your visit if your doctor allows it. Recording the conversation with your doctor gives you a chance to hear specific information again or share it with family members or friends.
Incorporate other health care professionals into your team. Your oncologist and oncology nurse are essential members of your health care team, but there are other health care professionals who can help you manage your care:
- Your primary care physician should be kept updated about your breast cancer treatment and any test results
- Your local pharmacist is a great source of knowledge about the medications you are taking; have all of your prescriptions filled at the same pharmacy to avoid the possibility of harmful drug interactions
- Make sure your oncologist knows of any other medical conditions you have, or any pain you are experiencing, so that he or she can consult with your primary care physician or your specialist if needed
Remember, there is no such thing as over-communication. Your healthcare team wants to know about how you’re feeling overall, which includes your level of pain, your energy level, your appetite, and your mood and spirits.
Information provided by CancerCare.
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