Communicating with Your Healthcare Team

In order to feel confident about the medical treatments you are receiving, it’s important to have clear and comfortable communication with the doctors, nurses, social workers, and other professionals involved in your care.

  • Consider bringing a friend or relative with you to take notes and help you remember what was discussed.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions and have things repeated or explained in terms you understand.
  • If you are upset and not ready to discuss something, it’s okay to tell your doctor that you need to come back later. You need to get information when you are best able to understand and absorb it.
  • Some articles suggest taping consultations. However, many physicians are not comfortable being taped, so be sure to ask your doctor beforehand if this is acceptable. Not wishing to be taped is not a reflection of the doctor’s skill or competence.
  • Ask your doctor what the best method is for addressing further questions. Most doctors’ offices have nurses or administrative personnel who can answer medical and non-medical questions or refer you to someone who can. Ask your doctor and other healthcare providers if they prefer email or telephone conversations for answering questions. While some doctors check their email regularly, many others do not, and important messages from a sick patient may not be noticed. Conversely, some physicians check their email often and can respond more quickly to brief questions that way.
  • Many medical facilities have staff people who are experienced in helping patients with insurance, financial issues, job issues, emotional needs, and other aspects of cancer treatment.
  • Write down the names and phone numbers of people you talk to for future reference.