Talking to your Doctor

Knowing the right questions to ask your cancer care team can help you better understand your diagnosis and your treatment options. 

This, in turn, can empower you to take charge and give you a greater sense of control over your health, your life and your survivorship experience.

For a list of key questions to ask your cancer care team, click here. It may be helpful to review these in advance of any appointments and to print and bring them with you so you can be sure to have them asked and answered. Here are some useful tips and tools to help make sure that you are getting the most of your appointments and to ensure you are setting yourself up for success in your own self advocacy:

Take notes (or have a family member or friend take them) so you can refer back to them at a later time. Ask the doctor to repeat something if you weren’t able to get it all down on paper.

You can ask your doctor to show you a picture or drawing that will help you understand where your cancer is, how tests will be performed, and how your cancer will be treated. If you can take a copy of the picture or drawing home, it will be easier to explain things to your family.

 Doctors can get stuck in their own “medical speak” which is often unfamiliar or not easily understandable to people who are not health care professionals. Understanding what is being said is key to empowering you to be an effective partner in your treatment and recovery. 

Your doctor can refer you to a pamphlet, book, video, or other resource to help you understand the procedure or treatment that is being explained. This may also include connecting with others who have lived through a lung cancer diagnosis and treatment.

 

Repeat to the doctor what you thought he or she said. That gives the doctor feedback on what you heard and, if necessary, an opportunity to clear up any communication problems.

Use a recording device such as a small tape recorder or your cell phone. Having a recording of your appointment can allow you to be more relaxed when seeing the doctor, since it will free you from taking notes and allow you to listen more carefully to what the doctor is saying. You should always ask in advance if your doctor would mind you recording the session and you can explain that it will help you better understand and follow the advice given.

After the appointment

  • Start a file where you can keep copies of all test results, medication, nutrition and therapy tips, and any other information that relates to your type of cancer, treatment or healthcare team.
  • Keep a running list of any questions that occur to you as you move forward, or side effects or problems that develop so you can discuss them with your healthcare team.
  • Talk with your family about what is happening so they have a better understanding of your disease and how it can affect you physically, emotionally, and mentally.
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