Strategies for Communicating with Your Cancer Care Team

How to prepare for your healthcare appointments and take an active role in your treatment for cancer.

While you will rely on your team for information, guidance, and support, you must remember that your team also relies on you.

When treating cancer, a person will often work with multiple healthcare providers, including oncologists, other doctors, nurses, social workers, and other specialists. This is often called a multidisciplinary team. While you will rely on your team for information, guidance, and support, you must remember that your team also relies on you.

Good communication with your healthcare team helps you get the best care possible and helps your team provide you with the best care possible.

Here are some tips to help you communicate with your healthcare team.

Prepare for appointments

Before each appointment, make a list of questions and concerns you have. Write down any symptoms, side effects, or changes you've noticed since your last visit. Write down anything that you need to talk about. Bring your list to your appointment.

Ask for clarification

People who have cancer must often learn a lot about cancer in a short amount of time. Sometimes, your healthcare provider may say something that seems unclear. Remember that your healthcare provider is there to help you understand and that your time with your healthcare providers is valuable. Don’t hesitate to ask questions or ask for a simpler explanation when you need one.

Be honest

Be open and honest with your healthcare providers. Tell your healthcare providers if you think you are experiencing side effects. Tell your healthcare providers how you feel physically and mentally. Tell your healthcare providers if you have a concern about any aspect of your treatment, including the cost of treatment. This information can help your team give you the right support and guide you during treatment.

Take notes during appointments

You may cover a lot of information during an appointment, and it may be more than you can remember. Taking notes can help. You might also consider bringing a friend or family member to take notes for you. A companion can also be a source of emotional support.

Request more information

Ask your healthcare providers if there is any information that you can take with you, such as brochures or guides for people living with cancer. Ask if there are good websites or other sources of information about the type of cancer you have and the therapies that treat that type of cancer.

Ask for contact information

Sometimes you may need to talk to your healthcare providers between appointments. Ask for phone numbers or email addresses where you can reach someone if you have a question, if you have a concern, if you notice a change in how you feel. Also ask what you should do if you require immediate treatment or medical attention.

Keep a journal

Consider keeping a record of how you feel each day. Write down notes on your symptoms, your energy levels, what you eat, how you feel, your moods, and any changes you notice. This can provide useful information to your healthcare team. You can also ask your healthcare team for ideas on what to record in your journal.

Article sources open article sources

American Society of Clinical Oncology. The Oncology Team.
NCI Dictionary. Multidisciplinary.
National Cancer Institute. Talking with Your Health Care Team.
CancerCare Connect Booklet Series. Communicating With Your Health Care Team.
National Cancer Institute. Communication in Cancer Care (PDQ)–Patient Version.
National Cancer Institute. Common Cancer Myths and Misconceptions.
Mayo Clinic. Cancer diagnosis: 11 tips for coping.
American Cancer Society. Psychosocial Support Options for People with Cancer.

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