Dealing with cancer can feel overwhelming. There's so much information to take in and so much to decide. It might seem easier to let your doctors make the decisions for you.
It's true that doctors are experts on medical care. But you are the expert on yourself and your life. That's why it's important to be an "active patient." That means you work together with your doctor to make decisions. When you're an active patient, you can be sure that your choices reflect your values and beliefs. And you're more likely to be happy with your care and to have better medical results.
There are many ways to become more active and involved in your care. Here are some ideas:
Ask questions. It may help to write down your questions before your doctor visit. Then you can be sure you'll find out what you need to know. If your doctor says something you don't understand, don't be afraid to ask him or her to say it again in a different way. You have a right to understand your condition and your options.
Bring a support person. It's a good idea to take a trusted friend or relative to every appointment. This person can take notes for you and help you remember later what your doctor said.
Help your doctor. Always try to answer your doctor's questions fully and truthfully. This will help your doctor better manage your care. Be sure to go to all your appointments, and take any medicines as prescribed. Keep your doctor informed about any changes in your health.
Use your whole team. Find out who else is on your treatment team and how they can help you. For example, a nurse practitioner may be more available to answer questions than your doctor. A social worker can help you with insurance issues or recommend a support group. And some hospitals have "patient navigators" who can help you get the care and services you need.
Be part of each decision. Your feelings and values are an important part of any decision, so share them with your doctor. You may also want to talk to loved ones who will be affected by your choices.
Make a plan. After you and your doctor have made a decision, find out what you can do to make sure that you will have the best possible outcome. Write down the next steps you'll take. This can help you feel confident about your decision.
It can be hard to think clearly at the doctor's office, especially when the subject is as serious and complex as cancer. So it's a good idea to write down the questions you want to ask and bring the list with you.
Here are some questions that people with cancer often ask. You may have other questions that are important to you.
Most people search the Internet for information about cancer. That can be confusing because some online information isn't true or isn't based on sound medical research. But there are ways to find good information.
Look for websites you can trust. A number of national organizations are in the business of helping people with cancer. The major ones include:
Ask your doctors. They may have information for you, or they may be able to recommend good websites. And many hospitals have medical libraries that are open to the public.
Waiting to hear about a result that could change your life may be one of the hardest things about cancer treatment.
Most doctors, labs, and hospitals are very busy, and you may not want to be a bother. But tests can provide information that's very important to your future.
Here are some tips for following up on tests:
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