How to Be Proactive With Your Treatment

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on April 21, 2022

If you've been told your condition needs treatment, you'll want to make sure you get the best care. The most effective way to do that is to become your own advocate. That means arming yourself with knowledge and getting the support you need.

Work With Your Doctor

Do your research. Learn about your condition and treatments so you and your doctor can decide your care together. There's a lot of information online. Ask your doctor if there are good sites for you to check out. They may also be able to give you printed resources.

Prepare, and bring a buddy. Write down questions or concerns before each doctor visit. When you ask the doctor, jot down their answers for reference later. A family member or friend can be a second pair of ears. Then you'll have help when you need to recall important information from the doctor.

Trust your instincts. To feel comfortable with your choices, you'll need to feel comfortable with your doctor. If you don't feel a good connection, you may want to see someone else.

Have a plan. You may have an urgent question or issue pop up after normal office hours. Ask your doctor the best way to reach them or if you should contact someone else.

Take Care of Yourself

Take it easy. Your body needs lots of strength to fight off illness. Get plenty of rest, eat healthy meals that are high in protein and calories, and get some fresh air. Exercise also can help you feel better and help relieve your stress. But check with your doctor to see what's right for you.

Track your side effects. You'll likely take many different medicines during your treatment. Your doctor will want to know which help and which cause problems. Keep a log of when you take medications and when you have side effects.

Get Help

Accept support. Your family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers will want to help. But they may not know what you need. Make a list of chores or errands they can do.

Tap into local resources. Find out if your doctor's clinic or hospital offers support services. You may be able to join a support group, take a fitness class, or get advice about your eating habits.

Money Matters

Check your coverage. Even with health insurance, medical care can be expensive. Find out what treatments and services your health plan covers and what expenses you'll have to pay.

Apply for aid. Many kinds of financial aid exist to help people. They include government assistance, help from local community groups, and drug company programs for discounted or free prescriptions. Ask your doctor or hospital about financial counselors or social workers who can guide you.

Know your rights. You have certain legal rights you can tap. For instance, if you're laid off from your job, a federal law allows you to stay on your employer's insurance plan for up to18 months at your own expense. Another law lets a loved one take unpaid leave from work to care for you.

In the Hospital

Be aware of your meds. Know the name of every drug you're taking, the dosage, the best way to take it, and any potential side effects. Keep a list in your pocket or on your phone if the list is long.

Identify yourself. Any time staff enters your room to give you medicine, do a test, or take you to a different room, they should check your full name and birth date. If they don't, tell them.

Take home a summary of your treatment. Keep all your medical papers in the same place at home. If you change doctors or go see a specialist, you'll need to pass these on.

While at Home

Speak up. If you're not sure how to care for yourself once you get home, be sure to ask. You may be able to get outpatient services.

Follow up. Don't assume no news is good news. If you don't hear about the results of a lab or imaging test, call and ask for the results.

Report problems. If you're concerned about your care or safety, let someone know. You can contact the hospital or clinic's patient advocate. They have special training to look into patient complaints.

Show Sources


CancerCare: "Be Your Own Advocate," "Sources of Financial Assistance."

National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship: "During and After Treatment."

Cancer.Net: "Taking Charge of Your Care," "Choosing a Cancer Treatment Facility."

Cancer Financial Assistance Coalition: "Tips for Taking Control of Your Finances."

Hackensack Meridian Health Raritan Bay Medical Center: "Speak Up! Be Your Own Best Patient Advocate."

National Institutes of Health: "Clear Communication: Talking To Your Doctor."

American Cancer Society: "What Can I Do to Take Care of Myself During Chemo?"

Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center: "Caring For Yourself During Cancer Treatment: Are You Getting the Love and Support You Need?"

City of Hope: "Outpatient Services Guide: What Patients and Families Need to Know."

OncoLink: "6 Steps to Being Your Own Best Cancer Care Advocate."

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