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6 Tips to Optimize Consultations with Oncologists

By Jeannine Walston  |   Feb - 3 - 2016  |  


Consultations with oncologists can be tricky. Emotions can be intense, a lack of clarity can be blocked in confusion, and perceptions between past, present, and future can cultivate chaos. Fortunately, there are effective strategies to optimize consultations with oncologists. Explore these important tips to reduce some undesired emotions, become more clear, and create significant improvements in your journey.

  1. Ask for Support

People with cancer need support, including for appointments. Reach out to family and/or friends to help you prepare before, support during such as taking notes and perhaps help with questions, as well as after the consultation to recover, understand, process, digest, and even follow-up if necessary.

  1. Get your Questions Answered

The collection of quality information for decision-making is extremely helpful. Organize a list of questions, including through Questions for Evaluating Cancer Treatments and Providers. It’s powerful to have your questions answered. Ask your questions, repeat those that have not been answered, and request clarification about any unclear responses from providers. As much as possible, add questions to your list during the consult as necessary. Feel empowered by collecting answers about your questions into clarity and towards confidence.

  1. Optimize Doctor-Patient Communication

No doubt, communication can be complicated, and everyone is different—including the doctor and patient. Get to know your oncologist with his or her demeanor and verbal skills to patients. Tell the oncologist if you prefer detailed and technical explanations with scientific reasoning about complex factors, or if you would rather be given a general explanation. When needed, ask oncologists to repeat important information and emphasize the most critical pieces. After the consultation, if necessary, another strategy is to email the oncologist directly and sometimes nurse, or schedule another appointment to fully understand new information.

  1. Consider Recording Conversations

Even giving 100 percent of your energy, it can be hard to acquire all of the information completely during the consultation. Emotional overwhelm can impair comprehension during clinical appointments. Studies suggest that cancer patients may not retain information given to them during their appointments. Listening to recorded conversations can be really helpful for full understanding from the consultation. Another strategy is to have someone else listen to the recording as well, and you can discuss it together.

  1. Recognize that Treatment Recommendations Differ

Oncologists are unique in how they think, communicate, and relate to their patients. Treatment recommendations also vary depending upon the oncologist who makes them and where they work. Consider collecting multiple opinions, and conduct research about where to find the most respected hospitals and oncologists that hopefully use quality cancer care with innovative approaches when necessary.

  1. Learn the Complexity of Cancer Statistics

Statistics reflect estimates based on large groups of people and the numbers can be compiled over many years. As circumstances change, including treatments and the knowledge about what each individual can do to support their optimal health and healing—including components of integrative cancer care for the whole person—the survival curve changes. Statistics can never predict the fate of a single individual.

If you would like to learn more about strategies to prepare for consultations and communication with oncologists, situations before, during or after treatments, integrative cancer care for the whole person, and many forms of support in your cancer journey, contact me today for personalized cancer coaching. See how professional cancer coaching works here.