Talking With Your Doctor

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If you have a problem talking with your doctor

If you have problems talking with your doctor, there are often ways to make things better. Try to work out your concerns before deciding the situation is hopeless.

First, state your concern as honestly and openly as you can. Here are some ways you may want to think about starting the conversation:

  • “I’m concerned that we aren’t communicating well, and here’s why ...”
  • “I need to be able to talk with you about _________, and I feel like I can’t. Can we discuss this?”
  • “I realize that you’re very busy, but I need to discuss _________ with you. Can we schedule a time to do that?”
  • “I’m having trouble understanding ___________. Can you help me?”

If you need more details after your doctor answers a question, say so. Sometimes it’s even helpful to ask the same question again in a different way. Unless you tell your doctor that you don’t understand something, he or she will probably think that you do. There’s nothing wrong with telling your doctor that you don’t understand. If you want to learn more about your cancer treatment, ask your doctor to suggest some reading materials. Keep in mind that nurses can be great sources of information, too. Learning more about your treatment can help you become more actively involved in it.

If you are unable to work out the problem with your doctor during regular visits, ask for a special visit to discuss it. If the issue concerns your cancer treatment, go to the meeting with as much information as possible. You can call us at 1-800-227-2345 or visit our Web site at www.cancer.org for more information about your type of cancer and its treatment. Always tell your doctor where you got your information and then ask for his or her opinion.

Even if you feel frustrated or angry, try not to be hostile toward your doctor. Often people become defensive and withdraw when they feel attacked—a response that will be not be helpful in the long run. State your concerns and questions clearly and honestly, without accusing.

What should you do if you feel you have done your part but things aren’t getting better? You might think about talking with a third party about the problem. The head nurse or your family doctor might be willing to discuss the matter with the doctor. Sometimes this is less stressful than facing the doctor directly, and their help could improve the situation.

If not, it may be time to find a new doctor. Don’t stay with a doctor only to protect his or her feelings. Just because you were referred to a doctor doesn’t mean you can’t decide to change on your own. It’s your body and you have the right to find the best doctor for you.


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