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Communicating with Your Specialist

Communication with your specialist and the team coordinating your care is very important. Tell your doctor how much you want to know about your diagnosis, treatment options and test results so you can function together as a team. Some people want to know every detail. Others want to know only the basics and trust their doctor to choose the most appropriate treatment.

Here are some suggestions that can help you get the most of out your next visit:

  • Make a list of questions ahead of time. Give the list to your doctor at the start of your visit.
  • Tell your doctor how much you want to know — every detail or just the basics.
  • Take notes. Consider bringing someone along to take notes or using a recorder.
  • Ask for written information about your disease and treatment. 
  • Ask for copies of your lab test results. Keep a copy of your health records.
  • Ask your doctor to slow down or explain things in another way if you're having trouble understanding him or her.
  • Talk about your symptoms. Tell your doctor about any changes in the way you feel or whether you've had to modify your activities.
  • Ask for help. Tell your doctor about anything you need help with such as paying for medications or keeping depression at bay.

 

Keeping a Health Calendar

It can be hard to remember how you felt last month or last week — even yesterday, but this information can help your doctor manage your treatment and side effects more effectively. If you're finding it difficult to keep track of your symptoms and how you feel from day to day, consider keeping a health calendar.

You can use the same calendar to keep track of your medical appointments, too. Many people like to put other events on the same calendar — birthdays, social plans — so the calendar isn't all about the disease and treatment.

Use the calendar to write a short note each day about how you feel and your activities and what effect each has on the other. Include items like your:

  • Energy levels ("tired," "lots of energy")
  • Overall well-being ("feel great!" "depressed")
  • Symptoms ("rash," " bad headache," "felt nauseated in the morning, better in the afternoon")
  • Physical activities ("walked half a mile," "cleaned house," "treatment day — slept all afternoon")
  • Social activities ("lunch with friends")

Related Links

  • Click here to download lists of suggested questions to ask your healthcare providers.