Why Cancer Patients Should Get Organized

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By Lauren Schoenemann, MD Anderson Staff Writer

GetOrganizedfinal.jpgJanice Simon believes that cancer patients can, and should, get organized.

A project director in MD Anderson's Department of Faculty Development, Simon says that though collecting and sorting paperwork is time-consuming and may seem overwhelming, consolidating personal documents, health records and questions benefits both patient and physician by making appointments more efficient and productive.

So that they don't feel overwhelmed, Simon recommends that patients take small steps toward organization.

First, they should decide which documents to keep and discard, dividing the process into less intimidating "chunks" to increase their chances of completing each task.

Patients can then use a three-ring binder with subject dividers to categorize documents according to type. Categories may include bills, insurance information or medical records.

Preparing for a doctor visit
Before the all-important appointment with a physician, patients can prepare an updated list of their medications, as well as any current research gathered on their cancer or condition.

"Medical visits run more smoothly when patients come prepared with a list of questions for their doctors," Simon says. "It can also lead to shorter and more productive appointments."

Simon advises patients to carry a notebook wherever they go so that any time they think of a question, they can write it down to reduce the likelihood of forgetting to address it at their next visit.

Scanning and storing documents electronically can also help patients stay organized and avoid losing this crucial information in the event of a fire, flood or natural disaster.

Should they need to evacuate or if their files are unexpectedly damaged, having records saved on a flash drive or laptop computer can keep patients organized and prepared, Simon says.

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We can help patients organize their health care papers.

Keeping track of health information can be especially difficult after cancer diagnosis for cancer patients and their caregivers. The Learning Center has collaborated with the American Cancer Society to provide a free health care information organizer to our patients.

The American Cancer Society has developed an expandable plastic kit called the Personal Health Manger with dividers to help patients and their caregivers keep track of appointments, prescriptions, test results, insurance bills, and questions to ask their doctors.

Patients can stop by The Learning Center to pick up a free kit today.

For more information, call any Learning Center location.

Theodore N. Law Learning Center
Main Building, Floor 4, near Elevator A,
Room R4.1100
Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Levit Family Learning Center
Mays Clinic, Floor 2, near The Tree
Sculpture, Room ACB2.1120
Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

While managing the bureaucracy of our medical system is one way of being organized, here's why cancer survivors really need to get organized:

1. First and foremost, to counter the current emphasis on the role of our 'lifestyle choices', and the total neglect of environmental concerns that we as individuals have no control over. Corporations can pollute and profit from doing so, while our health suffers. (only the anti-cancer organization Breast Cancer Action recognizes this)

2. Within the cancer treatment establishment, and insurance coding/reimbursement, I'd like to see the access to plastic surgery as generous for reconstruction on other body sites (face!) as it is for breast reconstruction. Facial cancers get one shot at repair--after that, it's "cosmetic".
Doubtless there are plenty of other inequities in access to treatment and reconstruction.

That's why we need to get organized--fighting unwanted exposure to carcinogens, and fighting unequal access to treatment and repair depending on the kind of cancer one suffers from.

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