Successful Communication Skills for Cancer Patients

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Just the diagnosis of CANCER is enough. Your brain wants to shut down at that time. The doctor has to be wrong about the diagnosis or have the wrong person. But as it does sink in and you begin on your cancer journey, there are a couple of tips I like to give any patient.

First, whenever you go to the clinic or hospital to see a new health care provider or get results of tests that may be positive or negative, try to bring a family member or friend. This person can serve as a second set of ears. They will hear things you will not remember. They also may think of questions to ask that you may not think of. Lastly, they can serve as an advocate for you. You might need someone to say "wait!!!" my friend needs all the options and a few days to think about it first. There are some rare cases where it is essential that treatment start immediately, but most treatments for cancer can be postponed a few days or weeks. You may even want a 2nd opinion. If you cannot take a friend or family member then take a tape recorder and ask the doctor to let you tape the conversation so you will remember all the important points. Then you can play back the audiotapes when you are at home.

The other tip I suggest to all patients (especially cancer patients and ones that have a chronic condition). Buy a notebook. Any size will do. Some like the small file card size to put in their pocket or purse. Others like a 3 ring binder.

Before you go to a doctor's visit or enter the hospital write down all the questions you have so you do NOT forget to ask them during the visit. Allow enough space to write the answers in or have your friend or loved one write down the answers. Write down any terminology you do not understand and have the health care providers explain it to you. Let the doctor draw things for you in the notebook so you understand. You can also keep track of any instructions while you are at the visit (like the names of new medications, when to take them, what side effects to watch for). You can also ask for a copy of laboratory tests and then when you get home you can scotch tape them inside the notebook. Some individuals also like to track how they are feeling every day in the same notebook.

These are just 2 of the top tips I recommend to all patients. I hope they will provide some hope and help in the future.
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About the Author


BA, MPH

Steve shares what he learned from his personal experience with cancer.

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