Communicating with your doctor may be one of the most crucial challenges facing you as a mesothelioma patient. Managing your mesothelioma to optimize your quality of life and survival time requires communicating with your doctor. But most people feel uncomfortable doing this. They may develop “white-coat brain freeze” when it comes to asking questions. Or they may feel inferior and intimidated by what they believe to be the doctor’s superior expertise.
How is your communication with your doctor? Whether it’s your oncologist, radiologist, primary-care physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant, the better your communications, the better your chances are of receiving optimal care.
10 Tips for Communicating With Your Doctor
Here are 10 tips that will have you communicating with your doctor more effectively during office visits.
- Plan for Your Appointment:Doctor’s offices are busy. Unless you’re having an initial evaluation, your visit is likely to be as brief as 20 to 30 minutes. Here’s how to get the most from it:
- Be early. Every doctor’s office needs you to initially fill out forms. Even if it’s not your first visit, arriving early will help you relax before you go into your appointment.
- Prepare a list of your symptoms. The more specific, the greater the chance your doctor will be able to identify your problem.
- Make a list of allmedications you take. Include over-the-counter medications — even vitamins, herbs and other supplements.
- Bring your insurance information and any healthcare directives. If you’re going to be communicating with a new doctor for the first time, have your medical records sent to the office before your appointment.
- Buy a notebook or journal and title it “My Mesothelioma.” Jot down specific questions for communicating with your doctor. Take notes as your questions are answered. If you feel your doctor is communicating with you in “medical speak,” ask for an answer in language you can understand.
- Keep It Simple:During your appointment ask, “What do you think is going on with me?” Here are three follow-up questions:
- How did you reach that conclusion?
- What else might be causing this to happen?
- What can I expect to happen next?
- Ask About Tests: Your doctor will likely want to order various tests. When communicating with your doctor about tests, ask:
- What will these tests involve?
- How do I prepare for these tests?
- Will you do the testing? Or will I be referred to a lab?
- Explore Your Treatment Options:When your doctor prescribes a course of treatment for your mesothelioma, ask:
- Did you consider other treatments?
- If so, what are the pros and cons of each treatment?
- With which treatments have you had the most success?
- What is your experience with these treatments?
- Prescription Medication: Don’t wait until the doctor hands you prescriptions at the end of your visit. Part of communicating with your doctor should include discussing medications. Ask:
- What kind of medication will you prescribe for me?
- How long will I take it?
- What benefits can I realistically expect from this medication?
- What are typical side effects? What can I do about them?
- When should I start to feel the medication’s results?
- Are there possible interactions with other medications I take?
- If this medication isn’t successful, are there other options?
- Are there foods, drinks or activities I should avoid while taking this?
- Is a generic, low-cost version available?
- Ask for Referrals:If you’re seeing an oncologist, ask if a referral to a specialist — such as a dietitian – is needed. Every doctor can’t be an expert in all disciplines.
- Speak Up:It can be uncomfortable if you are communicating with your doctor and he or she seems impatient. Remember, you are the reason your doctor is there. Don’t leave the office until your questions are answered. And in a way you understand.
- Don’tHold Back Information: If you’re not sharing information because it seems too sensitive or unimportant, speak up. When communicating with your doctor, convey all the information that might help him or her plan how best to treat you.
- Bring a Companion:Communicating with your doctor may be easier if you bring along a friend, family member or colleague for support. Most doctors will let your companion go with you into the treatment room. Companions can help put you at ease, remember questions you need to ask, and help clarify what the doctor said. If your visit concerns a particularly sensitive matter, your companion can always step outside while you discuss it.
- Arrange For Follow Up:Before you leave the doctor’s examining room, ask when you should have a follow-up visit. Back in the reception area, schedule that appointment.
Finally, remember that communicating with your doctor in a trusting way will take both time and effort. But your efforts will be rewarded with better quality of care for your mesothelioma.