Managing Your Treatment
After hearing the words “You have cancer,” you may feel scared and overwhelmed. Learning as much as you can about your diagnosis may help you feel more in control. The relationship you have with your medical team can also make a huge difference in helping you cope in a positive way.
Here are some tips for managing your treatment and communicating with your health care team:
Get informed. The members of your health care team can provide accurate information about your diagnosis and treatment options along with referrals to valuable resources. Ask them to recommend reliable websites, organizations, books or brochures that describe your diagnosis and your treatment. However, there is such a thing as too much information. Avoid using Google to inform treatment decisions; each individual will respond differently to treatment even with the same diagnosis. While credible information can help you feel more in control, too much information has the potential to cause anxiety.
The resources listed in the back of this booklet are also excellent sources of information. If you feel overwhelmed with the amount of research you need to do, ask a friend or a family member for help.
Prepare for your medical appointments. If you have questions about your care, you may find it helpful to write down your questions in advance. Prioritize them so that the most important questions are answered first. Write down your doctor’s answers or bring someone with you to take notes or serve as a second set of ears. If having someone attend appointments with you is not an option, ask if you are able to record the conversation using your cell phone. With the technology available, many young adults find it helpful to process the information at a later time or listen to the information again with a friend or a family member. Remember, you can also ask for copies of your medical records.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you are unsure what something means, let your doctor know. Make your questions specific and brief. Use “I” statements whenever possible—saying “I do not understand” is more effective than “You are being unclear.” Try repeating the information back to your doctor to make sure you understand what they are saying. If you are a visual learner, ask to see the X-rays or slides. Remember, this is your medical team and they are here for support, education and guidance. Sometimes it may feel as if you do not have enough time with your doctor or oncologist. It is okay to advocate for your needs as a patient. Read CancerCare’s fact sheet titled “The Value of Assertiveness When Talking to Your Doctor” for more tips.
Bring up fertility concerns. Cancer treatments can have a variety of long-term and short-term side effects on a person’s ability to conceive or carry a child to term. Discuss fertility concerns with your doctor before, during and after treatment. If your medical team has not addressed your concerns, be a self-advocate and continue to ask questions about possible side effects of treatment. If family planning is a priority, make sure your health care team understands this. Your health care team may refer you to a fertility preservation specialist so that you can explore options such as sperm or egg harvesting (storing for later use). Some of these options are costly and few are covered by insurance at this time, but financial assistance programs are available for those who qualify. For comprehensive information about fertility preservation, contact LIVESTRONG Fertility or The OncoFertility Consortium. You can also read CancerCare’s fact sheet titled “Coping With Fertility Concerns: Finding Resources and Support” for more information.
Discuss what treatment plan is best for you. Your lifestyle and daily activities may influence treatment recommendations. Talk with your health care team about treatment goals and your preferences about treatment. For example, find out if treatment will interfere with your ability to continue working or going to school. If you have an important event coming up, ask if you can reschedule an appointment or round of treatment so you can attend. Scheduling adjustments may not always be possible, but you won’t know unless you ask.
Be your own advocate. Because you know yourself and your needs better than anyone, you are in the best position to talk with your health care team about any issues. You may have to take the lead in bringing up certain topics, such as fertility preservation or how much your treatment will cost. Do not hesitate to bring up any concerns so that you get the help you need. Read CancerCare’s fact sheet titled “Doctor, Can We Talk?: Tips for Communicating With Your Health Care Team” for more information.