Tips for Communicating with Your Cancer Care Team

care team
Patient Christina Dixon (right) chats with her infusion nurse, Kerry Beliveau, RN. During cancer treatment, it’s important you are able to discuss aspects of your health with your care team.

One of the most important parts of cancer treatment involves talking with your cancer care team. During your care it’s vital that you are able to openly discuss different aspects of your health, treatment, and symptoms you might be experiencing.

To make the most of conversations with your care team, consider the following tips:

  • Do some homework before your appointment. Learn what to expect before a first appointment think about questions you may have. Write them down in advance and bring them to your visit. You may want to practice asking difficult questions or discussing sensitive topics with a friend or loved one beforehand. Doing so may be helpful if you find them hard to remember or bring up in the moment.
  • Talk about what is really on your mind. Your doctors and nurses know a lot about your disease, but you know a lot about your own body. Share your fears and concerns, and ask questions. If you want to learn more about your cancer treatment, ask your care team to suggest the best reading materials or websites that can provide more information.
  • Take notes. Write down important points when your doctor or nurse explains something, or ask a friend or loved one to do so. Ask your doctor if it’s okay to record conversations using a smartphone, tablet device, or digital voice recorder, so you can listen to your conversation again at home or share with your family.
  • Speak up if you don’t understand something. Always feel free to ask that something be explained again if you don’t understand what was said. Similarly, if English is not your first language and you or a loved one has difficulty communicating or understanding medical documents, consider requesting an interpreter from your hospital.
  • Learn where to get help with other important concerns. If you have concerns or questions about insurance coverage or money, talk with your hospital’s customer service or financial department. If you have stress related to your finances, ask your health care team to refer you to a social worker to discuss what is happening and what resources might be available to help.
  • Keep track of your symptoms and concerns. Between appointments, use a notebook or your smartphone to keep a list of symptoms that you’ve had or questions that come up. Share this list with your care team at your next appointment.

Cancer treatment usually involves a specialized team of health care professionals, so ask your care team about the best phone numbers to call when you have questions about how you’re feeling or any symptoms you might experience away from the hospital. Write down the names of your health care team and office staff. Keep the list handy, share it with your loved ones, and call whenever you have questions or concerns.

Hear from one patient about the importance of forming a bond with her care team: