Talking With Your Doctor

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The doctor-patient relationship

A good doctor-patient relationship is a 2-way street. Here are some ways you can help keep up your end of the relationship:

  • Tell your doctor about any changes in your body and how it is working—from sleep and bowel habits to headaches. Make notes so you can tell your doctor everything.
  • Ask your doctor what changes you should call about during office hours and which ones would need an emergency call during times when the office is closed.
  • Discuss your concerns about how cancer will affect your life. Be honest about your habits—even if they’re habits that you may not be proud of, like smoking or drinking. Never hold back information. Something you think is minor could affect your treatment. Or something you think is serious might be easily relieved.
  • Make a list of all your questions, and take it with you to your doctor visits. Don’t be ashamed or shy about asking these questions. There is no such thing as a “dumb” question. Check the list of questions above for some ideas, and then add your own.

Be sure your doctor has a copy of your most recent instructions on the care you want if you become unable to make decisions for yourself. These instructions are called advance directives. If you would like to learn more, call us at 1-800-227-2345 and ask for a copy of Advance Directives.

The doctor-patient relationship when you’re in the hospital

If you are in the hospital, your relationship with your doctor will change somewhat. Many other people will be involved in your care during this time. And your doctor may not be the only one making treatment decisions.

Sometimes hospital policies and routines may clash with your own. In the hospital, you will also be surrounded by noise and activity, which can be stressful in itself. Some of this can’t be avoided, but you can bring up problems with the nurses who are caring for you. They can offer ideas about ways to deal with these changes, and how the staff can help meet your needs. Keep in mind that your doctor may also be able to help you solve problems that might come up as you adjust to hospital routines and practices.

If you have a problem with your doctor while you are in the hospital, there are other people who may be able to help. Speak to your nurse, talk to a social worker, or ask if the hospital has a patient service representative on staff. They can give you support and help you organize your thoughts before talking with your doctor. With your permission, they might even speak directly with your doctor.

Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor

Your doctor and the rest of your health care team want to help you and support you through this time. And people who have cancer likely want to build good relationships with their doctors. A good relationship doesn’t just happen—it takes care and effort on both sides. Try to figure out your needs and how to best talk to your doctor about them. Work together. Chances are you’ll both benefit from it.

Last Medical Review: 05/04/2012
Last Revised: 05/04/2012