Make the Most of Your Doctor Appointments
Hearing that you have prostate cancer for the first time can be incredibly overwhelming. In fact, many men feel that they are in shock after hearing the news, and have difficulty absorbing any additional information their doctor may share with them about their diagnosis or treatment plan. A slew of appointments with a variety of clinicians typically follows your initial diagnosis as your treatment plan develops.
You may wish to bring your spouse or partner or another family member along with you to your appointments to be an additional set of eyes and ears. They may also assist you by taking notes during your visit or asking questions that you forgot. You will probably also find that given the limited amount of time you have with each of your healthcare providers, it is important to be prepared in order to make the most of the time you have with your team.
Bring your notes
If possible, bring notes and prepared questions with you to your appointments. These will help you focus on your most important needs and not forget issues that have been bothering you since your last appointment. In advance of your appointments, try to write down questions that you want to remember:
- How you have been feeling (physically and emotionally
- Changes in your body
- Worries or concerns
- Symptoms and side effects
- Insurance and financial concerns that could impact medical decisions
Try to write down and ask your most important questions and concerns first, and be specific. This will help you make the most of your limited time with your healthcare team.
Bring your medications
Additionally, it will be helpful to your healthcare team for you to bring all of your medications or list of medications with you to appointments. This way you can review the medications you have been taking or if you have had any side effects you want to discuss. If you are preparing for surgery or biopsy, it is also important for your healthcare provider to know what medications you are taking aswell. Your oncologist needs to know all of the medications you are taking, not just medications related to cancer treatment, to ensure that there are no interactions.They may also want to review when and how to take medications. Alternatively, you can bring a list of medications, but be sure to also include over-the-counter (OTC) meds such as ibuprofen, vitamins, and supplements.
Talk to support services
If you know in advance that you will have difficulty getting to and from your appointments, reach out to the social worker or American Cancer Society representative at your cancer center. There may be financial assistance for transportation or other services available. If you receive rides through your insurance or paratransit, someone on site may be able to help you arrange your rides. It is important that you attend all of your scheduled appointments; these support services are in place to ease some of the logistical burdens.
Get contact information
There may be times in between appointments when you need to communicate with your healthcare team. Ask your healthcare provider what to do if this happens. If your concerns aren’t urgent, but you don’t want to wait until the next scheduled appointment, ask to have a team member call you. You may also be able to contact your team via e-mail, fax, or an online patient portal. Your team can then prepare a response and call or email you to discuss it further.
Additionally, ask your doctor how you can reach him or her outside of office hours in case you have additional questions or in the case of emergency. If you think you may have a question they need to prepare for in advance of your next appointment it may be best to email or call them ahead of time.
While you may have limited time with your health care providers when you are facing a cancer diagnosis this time is valuable so prepare and use it wisely. If you can prepare for your appointments in advance, you can best take advantage of the time that you have. Following these four simple steps can help you feel better prepared and ready to face your next steps.
Have you made personal connections through your journey with prostate cancer?