For those who have been diagnosed with cancer, meeting with an oncologist is typically one of the very first steps in creating an effective treatment plan. Oncologists are doctors who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, with many oncologists specializing in a specific type of treatment, such as radiation oncologists who provide radiation therapy.
Since oncologists have a key role in any cancer patient’s life, being able to effectively communicate with oncologists is essential to ensure that the patient gets the best treatment possible. Taking notes during these conversations, and bringing someone along with you to each appointment as a second set of ears are two of the most important tips we recommend, but there are many others. For additional tips on how you can more effectively communicate with your oncologist, check out the guide below, courtesy of the cancer care team here at Peninsula Radiation Oncology Center in Soldotna, AK
Creating An Agenda For The Conversation
With any new cancer diagnosis, there are always a great deal of questions that patients want answers to. To ensure that you get the most out of your appointments with your oncologist, creating an agenda with topics to go over in your conversation is a great tool. By having that agenda, you can let your oncologist know what your goals are for that appointment, such as understanding you specific cancer condition better, or becoming familiar with the types of treatment options that are available to you for your condition. With this structure for your appointment in place, both you and your oncologist can make sure that you cover that information for your meeting without getting side-tracked with other questions or discussions.
Don’t Be Afraid To Ask Complicated Questions
One of the most common mistakes that newly diagnosed cancer patients make when speaking to their oncologist is asking “yes” or “no” questions. Don’t shy away from asking more complex, open-ended questions, such as what the treatment process will be like.
Tell Them About What You Value Most
The goal of your oncologist is to create a treatment plan that is not only based around the best way to treat your cancer condition, but also your personal values and preferences. If the most important thing to you is getting back to your family, or maybe even getting back to work, let your oncologist and cancer care team know, so they can take your values into consideration when creating your treatment plan. They will also be able to frame conversations with you around those values, keeping you informed about the prognosis with your goals in mind.
Listen & Make Sure You Understand
Understanding your condition and treatment will help relieve anxiety as you go into treatment, and talking to your oncologist is one of the best ways for you to gain that understanding. While you ask questions, make sure that you are always listening closely to your oncologist’s answer, instead of thinking of what to ask next. If you don’t understand what they said, don’t hesitate to ask them to elaborate or repeat what they said, to ensure that you have a clear picture. Most importantly, take notes during conversations and if possible, have a spouse, family member or friend attend appointments with us.
Be Open & Honest
When you’re talking to your oncologist about your condition and treatment, you’re talking about your life and future. Being open and honest with your oncologist is vital to ensuring you have the most effective treatment possible. That means telling them everything that may be relevant for your treatment, from things like smoking or drinking alcohol, to and side effects to treatment that you may be having trouble or emotional issues that you’re having with accepting your situation.
Ask For Additional Help
While your oncologist focuses on the treatment of your condition, the effects that cancer can have on patients emotionally is a serious matter that should also be addressed. If you’re struggling emotionally since your diagnosis, don’t be afraid to ask for help dealing with those issues. Your oncologist and cancer treatment team will often be able to refer you to a professional who can help
Talk About What Comes Next
Before your visit with your oncologist ends, always make sure that you talk about what comes next. Since it’s a common, natural reaction to want to flee after hearing bad news, the feeling of being lost and not knowing what comes next after a diagnosis can feel even worse than the bad news itself. Talking to your oncologist and having them lay out a road map of what you can expect in the coming days, weeks, and months will give you direction, taking some mental pressure off of you.
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If you’re a patient who’s been diagnosed with cancer, or you have a loved one who’s battling cancer, we hope you found the above information useful. If you have any additional questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us and we’ll be more than happy to provide you with more helpful information.