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How Do I Talk to My Doctor?

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By Dawn Dorsey, Staff Writer

Do you feel rushed during appointments with your physician or other members of your health care team? Are you afraid you'll forget to ask an important question or report a side effect you've observed?

You're not alone. Many cancer patients report feeling they don't get enough one-on-one time with their health care providers. Managed health care and hectic schedules play major roles in this phenomenon.

While you may not have the ability to make your appointments longer, you can take steps to get the most benefit from the time you have.

Get involved


To take an active role in the doctor-patient relationship, you first need to be sure you are motivated and well educated about your illness. Think of yourself as a partner on the team rather than a passive observer.

Like any relationship, the doctor-patient alliance is a two-way street. To help you make the most of the time you have with your doctor, try these tips.

Plan ahead. Write down your questions before your appointment and prioritize them so you can get answers to the most important ones first if you're short on time.

Be factual about your symptoms. Consider keeping a symptom diary and bringing it to appointments. It may help clarify what you are going through.

Use your own language. When the doctor says something to you, repeat it in your own words to make sure you understand what's being said.

Ask for clarification.
Don't be shy about having the doctor explain anything you don't understand completely.

Bring a tape recorder. You can play back the conversation later if you don't remember something or if a point wasn't clear at the time. Also, you will have a record of what was discussed.

And, of course, remember your manners and treat everyone you meet with courtesy and respect. The Golden Rule may be old, but it's never out of fashion.

Read more Feature Stories from Cancerwise

1 Comment

OPINION: Golden Rule applies on both sides.

Experience: Some specialist physicians lack COMMUNICATION SKILLS and some ASSUME TOO MUCH (engineers at heart rather than scientists who stay on top of change).

Thus some POOR DIAGNOSES that LEAD TO FATAL ERRORS. Also the issue of FEAR OF LEGAL ACTION may play a part.

Effectively, TOO MUCH BUSINESS ORIENTATION instead of CARING ORIENTATION.

Experience: Even with "notes", some physicians refuse to keep a copy for fear of "legal repurcussions".

Seems like the more "recording" equipment the greater the FEAR.

Exactly what is the USA medical care ranking in the World - WHO says 37th. Anybody know for sure?

How much does MONEY and ACCESSIBILITY make a DIFFERENCE in a HUGE BUREAUCRACY that is attempting to UPGRADE but resists CHANGE?

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