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Cancer Health Center

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How to Document Your Medical History

Tips on How to Ensure You Have Your Medical Records When It Counts
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Once you've had cancer, it becomes a major part of your medical history. Make sure to get a copy of your cancer treatment records. That way, you can share the information with any doctors you see, now and in the future.

Should a potentially cancer-related problem develop later on, the medical document can offer doctors valuable clues, says Mary McCabe, RN, MA, director of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center's Cancer Survivorship Program. "To know that you had a drug that causes neuropathy or that can be damaging to the heart is extremely important. To know that you had radiation to an area of your shoulder may explain why you have limited range of motion."

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According to the National Cancer Institute, the following information is crucial to include in your medical document.

  • Your specific type of cancer
  • When you were diagnosed
  • Details about all of your cancer treatment, including surgeries; names and doses of all drugs; and sites and total amounts of radiation therapy
  • Places and dates of treatment
  • Contact information for all doctors and other health professionals who treated you or provided follow-up care
  • Key lab reports, pathology reports, and X-ray reports
  • Any problems or complications that happened after treatment
  • Details on supportive care you received, for example, pain or nausea medication, emotional support, or nutritional supplements

Consider sending a copy of your medical records to a trusted relative outside of your area, too. Be sure to send updates on important medical developments so that the file stays current. That way, if you lose your medical records to fire, theft, or natural disaster, you'll have a backup copy.

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