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44. How Can the Patient Help the Doctor?

The new breed of empowered patient helps their oncologist by becoming better educated about their disease; that way, not everything has to be explained at length by the doctor. Cancer patients can help their own cause by finding a way to grapple with psychosocial issues so that they do not consume the oncologist’s time.

  • Questions...
  • A) Can I bring a written list of questions to the appointment and take notes?
  • B) Can I bring a family member or friend to our appointments?
  • C) Can I do Internet research and talk to you about it?
  • D) Who is my “Healthcare Team” and how do I put them together?
  • Practical Tips...
  • Oncologists are increasingly comfortable with confronting a list of very specific patient questions during a doctor’s appointment; they will do their best to provide helpful answers and usually don’t mind if the patient takes notes.
  • Doctors usually don’t mind having someone accompany the patient – often they are called “patient advocates.” They help the patient remember what the doctor said or also take notes to review later.
  • Because of the Patient Empowerment Movement, doctors now expect that most patients will become quite self-educated about their disease. That usually is a positive, because it raises the level of patient-doctor discourse. Sometimes, of course, a doctor can get impatient if asked too many questions in one session.
  • It starts with your principal oncologist – probably a clinical oncologist. It includes your primary care physician. The there is the patient and perhaps one patient advocate type (such as a family member). Cancer patients see scores of other doctors, so some of them should be kept informed. Finally, the patient may have connected with a patient navigator, and their involvement will be very useful.