5 Ways to Partner with Your Doctor
Your first appointment with your oncologist is often overwhelming. You may find it hard to get all of your thoughts together at the moment. This is why coming prepared will ensure you make the most of your time with your physician (and with the nurse) to help identify the best treatements
Doctors are notoriously overloaded these days, but they’re here to help you, and they’re on your side. When you are prepared and engaged, you will be able to partner more effectively with your doctor to develop a treatment plan that is suited to your needs. The purpose of your first visit is to plan a future where you are healthy and cancer-free. Here are five ways you can begin a successful, empowered conversation with your doctor—starting with that first meeting.
1. Take notes. Before you walk into the appointment, write down what you want to see addressed, including
treatment options, costs, side effects, and the goal of your therapy. Ask your doctor to write down his or her suggestions for your treatment plan, especially the names of drugs. This information is essential if you want to get a second opinion and continue your education about your treatment. Consider recording your conversations. If your doctor tells you about diagnostic findings or shows you a test report, get a copy to take with you – you might need it.
2. Understand the scope and purpose of your therapy. Make sure you understand the end goal of your therapy—whether it’s ultimately to cure the cancer, control its growth, or simply provide comfort. Don’t be afraid to ask why this treatment is specifically tailored to treat your type of cancer. Help your doctor understand that you want a personalized treatment plan, not just a “one size fits all” treatment. Ask clarifying questions. The more informed you are, the better your treatment and outcomes will be.
3. Know your genetics. No cancer is the same, and you need to know what genetic mutation is behind your particular disease. For example, you may have been diagnosed with leukemia, but the genes BCR-ABL, FLT3, and NPM1 all cause different types of leukemia and call for treatments that vary in intensity. Researchers have discovered more than 1,800 disease genes since the Human Genome Project was completed in 2003. Increasingly, it is possible to determine which genetic mutation is causing your cancer. The more genetic information you have, the better your treatment will be tailored to your needs. If you haven’t had your genome sequenced, talk to your doctor about how to get this information. If you already have your genetic information, ask your doctor to help you understand what it means and how it could change your treatment.
4. Learn your terminology. Let your doctor know that you are well-informed about your options. Ask about
opportunities for precision medicine, genome sequencing, or molecular profiling—and take some time to learn what those terms mean. Ask about clinical trials for medicines that could help with your cancer. And don’t hesitate to ask the doctor to explain any unfamiliar words.
5. Don’t go alone. Whenever possible, bring a friend or loved one with you to these visits. Your friends and family members may ask questions that you haven’t considered, and they can help to advocate your cause. Beating cancer is a group activity, so welcome the help and support of loved ones.
Remember: Cure Forward is here to help you get all the information you need to become an empowered partner with your doctor. The more educated you are about your treatment options, the more likely it is that you will find a plan that is suited to your specific diagnosis. This is your cancer and your treatment. And you deserve the best that medicine has to offer.
Get started and a Cure Forward Clinical Trial Navigator will help you access active clinical trial options.