What sort of things are important to talk to my doctor about regarding my cancer diagnosis?

It is important to communicate openly with your doctors and members of your health care team during all parts of your treatment. Open communication helps the doctor tailor care especially for you.

Many people have a multi-disciplinary team of health providers, including doctors, nurses, oncology social workers, dietitians and other specialists. All team members need to fully understand your needs and desires during treatment. Let them know about any concerns or discomfort you experience. A few topics that you may want to discuss with your doctor or other members of your health care team are:

  • Pain or other symptoms. Be honest and open about how you feel. Tell your doctor if you have pain and where the pain is located. Also tell him or her what you expect in the way of pain relief.
  • Communication. Some people want to know details about their care, while others prefer to know as little as possible. Some patients want their family members to make most of their decisions. You have to decide what you want to know, how much you want to know and when you’ve heard enough. Choose what is most comfortable for you, and then tell your doctor and family members. Ask that they follow through with your wishes.
  • Family wishes. Some family members may have trouble dealing with cancer. They do not want to know how far the disease has advanced or your prognosis. Find out from your family members how much they want to know and tell your health care team their wishes. Do this as soon as possible. It will help avoid conflicts or distress among your loved ones.

The following are some tips for meeting with your health care team:

  • Make a list of your questions before each appointment.
  • Bring a family member or trusted friend with you to your medical visits.
  • Take notes or use a tape recorder if the doctor permits.
  • Keep a file or notebook of all the papers and test results that your doctor has given you and take this with you to your visits. Keep records or a diary of all your visits, and list the drugs and tests you have taken.
  • Keep a record of any upsetting symptoms or side effects you have. Note when they occur. Take this with you on your visits.

For more information contact Courtney Britton, librarian at Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge at (225) 927-2273, cbritton@cancerservices.org , or visit the Education Center at 550 Lobdell Ave., Baton Rouge.

Internet Resources:

NCI – Communication in Cancer Care


ACS – Talking with your Doctor


This column is presented as a service by Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge, a United Way affiliate.