Becoming a Proactive Cancer Patient
Experts explain what newly diagnosed cancer patients need to know to help fight their disease.
Know Your Information 'Comfort Level'
While some patients go into overdrive learning all they can almost
immediately, others either don't feel comfortable doing this or don't want to
know too many specifics.
Internet-savvy family members or friends can be called on when patients
can't do their own research.
M.D. Anderson gynecological cancer specialist Charles Levenback, MD, tells
WebMD that it is important that patients think about just how much information
they want before they sit down with their doctors.
"These days the assumption is that the patient wants to know everything,
but some may really only want the big picture," he says. "Or they want
more information as time goes on. It is important to communicate this."
It is also a good idea to write down questions before meeting with your
doctor. The American Cancer Society web site includes a long list of potential
questions which can be found in the "Learn about Cancer" section of the
site, under the main heading "Patients, Family and Friends." Sample
questions, which can be printed and taken along on doctors visits, can also be
found on WebMD.
Another Set of Ears
Patients often benefit when they bring someone along to appointments for
support and to act as another set of ears, Levenback says. A friend is often
better than a close family member in this support role, because family members
are often as upset as the patient.
Christina Koenig of Y-ME recommends bringing a tape recorder to doctor's
appointments if all agree that this is appropriate.
At the very least, someone should take notes during appointments, Arnim
"I've had people tell me that after the first five minutes they didn't
hear a thing their doctor was telling them," she says. "That is to be
Don't Be Afraid to Rock the Boat
Arnim says cancer patients are often reluctant to speak up when they are
upset about something, out of a conscious or subconscious fear that their
doctors or other medical caregivers will abandon them.
"The tendency when someone is feeling vulnerable and scared is to put up
with something rather than rock the boat," she says. "But even though
your instincts may be telling you to keep quiet, it is important to speak