Tips for Communicating With Your Health Care Team

When diagnosed with a long-term illness, your health care team is made up of specialty-trained people helping you understand and cope with your diagnosis. Each person on the team has special skills that you may need. They are there to help you learn more about cancer. They can answer questions, support you and refer you to resources for help.

Being able to talk to your health care team is vital. Your health care team is a wealth of knowledge. You can ask them any questions you may have. There are some things you can do to have open and easy communication with your care team.

How Do You Remember Everything?

Have a support person with you. Once you have scheduled your appointment, ask a family member or a friend to attend it with you. You’ll receive lots of information, and another person can help you listen, ask questions and write down details.

How Much Do You Want to Know?

It’s okay to learn at your own pace. You know when you are ready to talk and learn more about your cancer, and how much detail you want to hear. You’re sure to have questions and concerns; make a list and ask. Suggested questions include:

  • What do I have? (Ask them to write it down.)
  • What treatment do you suggest?
  • Are there other treatments?
  • How will these treatments help me?
  • How might treatments affect me? What are the risks?
  • What medications are you giving me? (Ask them to write it down.) What is each one for?
  • How should I expect to feel during treatment?
  • What side effects, if any, can I expect to have? Should I inform you of any of these side effects?
  • What can be done about side effects?
  • What is the best time to call if I have questions or problems?
  • What should I do if I have a serious problem when your office is closed?
  • Should I get a second opinion? From whom?

 It’s Your Health Care Team!

You are the key member of your health care team. Your team will count on you to be an active partner. This means going to office visits, taking medications, telling your doctor about problems and asking questions when you don’t understand. You may never know as much as your treatment team, but you and your loved ones are the only ones who can decide what is best for you. As part of your team, keep in mind that you have a key role to play in your care.

By Charlene Berke

Director of the Cancer Center at Avera Queen of Peace Hospital

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