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Cancer Health Center

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Cancer Support: Being an Active Patient - Topic Overview

Dealing with cancer is hard enough without feeling like you have to make decisions, ask your doctor questions, and be part of your treatment team.

It may seem easier to just let your doctors handle everything.

But it's a fact that when you are an "active patient"-when you and your doctors make decisions together-you're more likely to be happier with your care and have better medical results.1

How do you become an active patient?

Get the facts. Ask questions. Learn all you can. If you don't understand something, ask your doctor to explain it again.

Bring a support person. Bring a trusted friend or relative to every appointment. This support person can ask questions you forgot to ask or help you remember later what your doctor said.

Take the lead. Go to all your appointments. Speak up for yourself. Make sure the medicine you get at the drugstore is the right one.

Ask lots of questions. At every stage of your testing, diagnosis, and treatment, ask your doctor if there is anything you may not be prepared for or aren't expecting. For example, you could ask, "What are the things about this (test, surgery, treatment) that patients wish they'd known about ahead of time?"

Use your whole team. Ask your doctor who else is on your treatment team and how they can be resources for you. For example, a nurse practitioner may be more available than your doctor when questions come up. Or your team may include a dietitian, a massage therapist, or a social worker.

Be part of each decision. Make your own feelings and values part of your decision. Talk to loved ones who will be affected by it. Make a list of pros and cons for each option. Share all this with your doctor.

Make an action plan. After you and your doctor have made a decision, find out what you can do to make sure that you will have the best possible outcome. Write down the steps that you need to take next. Think positively about your decision.

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