Every year, on the first Sunday in June, we celebrate International Cancer Survivors Day. This day has been put in place to celebrate those who have made it through this challenging illness and to show unified support for those who’ve been diagnosed.
With International Cancer Survivors Day coming up on 4 June, we wanted to use this opportunity to provide a useful tool for those brave people who’ve been diagnosed. Going through a cancer diagnosis is an extremely difficult time and we understand that finding the right questions to ask and building a good relationship with doctors is the last thing on your mind. So, let us help.
Questions to ask your Oncologist
If you or a loved one is facing a cancer diagnosis, it’s hard to know what questions to ask, let alone find the headspace to sit down and think about what you want to know. Here are some typical questions that people in a similar situation have asked:
- What type of cancer do I have?
- Has the cancer spread to other areas of my body?
- Will I need to have more tests? If so, which ones?
- How serious is my cancer?
- How will this cancer affect me?
- What is the best treatment for me?
- What are the pros and cons of this treatment?
- How long does this treatment take?
- Where do I need to go to receive this treatment?
- Are there any lasting effects of this treatment?
- Will this treatment work?
- How will this treatment make me feel?
- What are my alternatives?
- What happens if I choose not to be treated?
- Will I need to undergo treatment again? If so, when?
- Will I experience any side effects? How long will these last?
- Is there a chance the cancer will return? (And how much of a chance?)
- Are there any symptoms I should flag with a doctor?
- Can you recommend someone I can contact about aftercare?
- Are there any support groups I can attend?
Tips for building a good relationship with your oncologist
During your cancer journey, healthcare specialists become an important part of your life. So, it’s beneficial to have a relationship with them that you’re happy with. Here are some tips you may find valuable:
This is your time with your doctor, so try to be as prepared as possible. We recommend taking the questions above, a notepad, and pen. Often, a lot of information comes out of these appointments. It can be a bit overwhelming. But it helps if you bring some questions and make notes next to each one, so you can be sure you’ve got all the answers you need.
Take a friend
Many find that it helps to bring a friend or family member to these appointments. Not only can a friend support you emotionally, but they will also be aware of what you want to know. They can ask questions on your behalf. You could also ask your friend to take notes, which may help take some pressure off you.
It really helps to take along the person or people most likely to be involved in your care. They will have questions, too so this gives them an opportunity to understand their role better, and play a more significant part in your care.
You want to ensure that you leave the appointment with a clear idea of what to do next. When you are armed with knowledge, you can make better decisions. The way to achieve this is to ask questions. Even if you have to ask twice, three times, or more. Doctors are fluent in medical language, so it’s normal to ask them to repeat something.
You could ask your doctor to write a summary letter of the appointment or ask if there’s someone you can speak to after the appointment if more questions arise or you need something to be explained again. If you don’t understand something, one tip is to repeat what you think the doctor said in your own words. They will then correct you if you misunderstood.
Finally, be honest. Your oncologist has heard of all sorts of symptoms, so there’s no need to feel embarrassed. If you feel you can’t talk to your oncologist, see if you can talk to a nurse or another healthcare specialist who you’re more comfortable around. They can then pass on any important information to the oncologist when you’re not around.
We know that going through cancer is tough. We really hope this goes some way to helping with oncology appointments. International Cancer Survivors Day is fast approaching and it’s the perfect day to see that life after a cancer diagnosis can be a reality. Visit the Cancer Survivors Day website to see how you can get involved.