When going through a health challenge or a cancer diagnosis, it can be very difficult to keep track of all the providers to see and making it to all your appointments can feel like a part time job. Beyond getting to all those appointments, it can also be difficult to absorb and understand the information given us to so that we can make informed choices about our health. As a result, when the doctor asks us as the end of the appointment if we have any questions, we may say “no” out of overwhelm, and then come up with all the questions we want to ask on our way home. So how can we make the most of our medical appointments? Read on for some tips!
- Word your symptoms in a concise manner, write this down if you need to and bring with you to your appointment.
- Most medical appointments are limited in time thus it’s imperative to make the most of the appointment time that you have. Presenting your symptoms in a concise manner is helpful to inform the clinician of what is going on for them to conduct their assessment. You should also share which symptoms you find the most problematic so they can formulate their interventions to provide you with the most relief and address your most pressing issues.
- Prepare a list of questions before you go.
- Make a list of the questions you want to ask your provider before you attend the appointment that are specific to that clinician. For example, when seeing your oncologist some questions you may wish to ask are: - What type of cancer do I have? Is it fast or slow growing? What is my prognosis? What treatment options are available to me? What are the benefits to progression or survival of these treatments? What are the side effects of each option; are there any alternatives? Will I need to make any changes to my diet, lifestyle, other medications or supplements I am already taking? Whom do I speak to if I need any additional support or have more questions?
- Aside from coming prepared with a list of questions, it’s important to not feel shy or intimidated to ask those questions! It is not your responsibility to appease your doctor, your duty is to make the best healthcare decisions for yourself.
- Take notes or bring someone with you. You can also request written material to take home.
- The provider will typically present you with a large volume of information to help you make an informed decision about your health and it can be challenging to keep track of all of it. Bringing a note pad can be helpful to write down the main points. It can also be useful to bring someone with you because your support person can assist with processing this information. If you do not understand something the clinician has explained to you, do not be shy to speak up! It is your doctor’s job to clarify health information for you. You may also request some handouts to take home that cover the information that was provided to you in your visit.
- Come prepared. If you have any relevant lab tests or imaging results, bring them to your appointment. Also bring a list of all the medications (prescribed and over the counter), supplements and herbal products with you.
- To provide you with the most informed and comprehensive assessment possible, the provider will need all the most recent lab and imaging results that you may have. Ask for a copy of these results to keep for your records and bring them to your appointments. The provider also needs to know everything you are taking right now to check for any potential interactions and ensure your safety.
Author: Olga Calderon, CCNM ICC intern