Making Medical Decisions Work for You
In an ideal healthcare experience, shared decision making is a collaborative process that takes place between a patient and their healthcare team. When done well, this shared decision-making experience provides a foundation for patients to truly understand what to expect and what is needed for their healthcare.
For the healthcare provider, getting a patient more actively involved in health-related decisions is important to make sure the patient is really able to follow through with a recommended course of action or treatment regimen.
What is shared decision making?
A shared decision-making process takes into consideration discussion of the most up-to-date diagnostic and treatment information. In addition, this discussion should include the healthcare provider identifying the patient’s expressed goals, preferences, and values. The process should provide a bridge between the healthcare team’s expertise, and a patient who is viewed as the expert in their own healthcare preferences.
While patients are often made to feel like they are not experts, and you may not feel like an expert, you are an expert in how you want to plan for your care. You are an expert in what you would like as an outcome of treatment, what your expectations are, and what “side-effects” you are willing to consider enduring.
It is important to recognize that you have an important voice in your healthcare decision-making process. While it is important to be involved in all aspects of your healthcare to the level you are comfortable, shared decision making valuable in situations where there is more than one medical option available.1
Real shared decision making ensures that patients are fully informed of all of their options, including the risks and benefits of these options, and that the things that are most important to the patient are taken into consideration.
What questions should be asked?
After a prostate cancer diagnosis, you might feel overwhelmed or uncertain of what to do next. It can be hard to fully absorb all of the information that is being presented to you. Asking questions can help to ensure that you and your healthcare team are on the same page.
Below are some questions that may help:
When diagnosed with prostate cancer
- What type of prostate cancer do I have?
- Should I get a second opinion?
- Are there any other diagnostic tests I should have?
- Will my prostate cancer biopsy also be tested for genetic mutations?
- What is my prostate cancer stage?
- What is my Gleason score and what does it mean?
- Has the prostate cancer spread to any other parts of my body?
When considering treatment options
- What treatment options are available for my type of prostate cancer?
- What are the pros and cons these treatments?
- What can I expect from treatment?
- Will I need to stay in a hospital for treatment? How long?
- How long will treatment last and how often will I receive treatment?
- What is the goal of my treatment?
- How do you determine if treatment is working?
- What happens if the treatment is not working?
- Does my insurance cover this treatment?
- Who is part of my care team? What are they responsible for?
- Are clinical trials an option for me?
- Where can I learn more or get support to make the right decision for me?
- How will this treatment affect my quality of life?
- Will this treatment have an effect on my sexual health?
- Will this treatment affect my fertility?
With your healthcare team
- How often will I have appointments and/or scans?
- Who should I contact if I have questions in between appointments?
- Who handles health insurance and payment questions in this office?
- What symptoms or side-effects are considered emergency symptoms?
- What happens when my treatment course is completed?
- Are there special resources I should be aware of? (for ex: support groups, financial resources or programs, etc.)
- Are there resources to help me or my family cope?
All part of your treatment plan
Each person and each case of prostate cancer is different. What matters most is that you feel comfortable with your care team and your treatment plan. Asking questions is an important part of managing your care and ensuring you and your care team have decided on the best plan for you!
The questions you choose to ask will be unique to your situation; and, just as your needs and priorities may change, your questions may change over time. For example, for men who choose Active Surveillance, you may need to have monitoring visits every 3 months for testing and may have different questions each time.
What questions have you found to be most helpful? Share your thoughts and ideas with the community!