You will discover a whole new world as someone who has received a cancer diagnosis. One of the most important things to remember after your diagnosis is that you are your own best advocate. It may feel strange at first to speak up, especially if you are not always in agreement with your treatment plan. While it is incredibly important to trust the experts, you have the right to seek a second opinion or attempt a different strategy if you feel your current plan is not working for you. Your doctor is a trusted guide and wants what is best for you. If you feel you need to explore an alternative treatment plan—speak up. Your doctor can help you decide what is ideal for you. After all, they want you to get better just as much as you do.
Below are some tips to take when advocating for yourself and your health.
Choose the right doctor for you
The most important factor in choosing a doctor is finding one you can trust.
The following advice will help you choose the best physician:
- Research doctors who are specialized in your specific cancer
- Check with your insurance or with the clinic directly to make sure they accept your insurance
- Research your doctor’s background school of education, medical credentials, etc.
- Learn about who you can contact after hours, it could be the doctor themselves or a nurse practitioner. It is important to know who to call when you have questions.
- Meet the staff that you will also be working with alongside the doctor
Understanding your diagnosis and what to expect during your cancer journey is almost as important as finding the right doctor. Some patients may feel overwhelmed and unsure of what to ask, while others might think they did not fully comprehend the information they were given. Never be afraid to call or email your doctor to learn more about your cancer and treatment options. Before your appointment, jot down all your questions and concerns so you remember everything.
Here are some questions to ask:
- What type of cancer do I have and what is its prognosis?
- Has my cancer spread? If so, where?
- What foods or drinks should I avoid or seek out?
- What changes in my life should I expect?
- What are my options regarding treatment? What are their side effects?
- How should I prepare for treatment?
- What support can I receive from the hospital? (Ex: financial or emotional support)
Research and learn for
Spend time learning everything you can about your cancer, both through your doctor and the internet. It is important to know what resources are available to you to help you feel better—some of them may even be new to your doctor.
Make sure you read trustworthy sites like the American Cancer Society or the National Cancer Institute when doing research on your cancer. There is a lot of information available online, some of which can be inaccurate.
Ask for your loved one’s help
Reaching out to loved ones is important since fighting cancer alone will be very challenging. This is especially true when treatment begins—you may need someone to bring you to your treatments.
Speak to your doctor about everything
Many patients sometimes feel like they need to keep some things from their doctor if they feel embarrassed by symptoms or think they will be reprimanded for not strictly following treatment plans. It is important to tell them everything, especially if you are dealing with something out of the ordinary. Even small dietary changes can influence symptoms, so your doctor will need to know everything to understand the full picture.
If you will be receiving chemotherapy, ask your doctor about enterade®. enterade can help you manage the GI side effects of cancer treatment such as diarrhea, nausea, fatigue, dehydration, and unwanted weight loss.
Connect with others who have cancer or join a cancer support community
Making connections with other cancer patients is a terrific approach to learn more about your diagnosis and to gain helpful advice. You can mention questions and concerns in these groups that you might otherwise feel awkward talking about with your doctor. Plus, it is always beneficial to have someone who knows what you are going through.
What if I am struggling to advocate for myself?
It is okay if you are the kind of person who is shy or does not want to speak up or ask their doctor specific questions. Ask a friend or member of your family to ask questions if you are hesitant to address certain subjects. At the end of the day, it is your health, and you have authority over how you choose to care for your body.