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Taking an Active Role in Your Health

For some people, becoming an active member of your healthcare team can be challenging. Some individuals may feel overwhelmed by all of the information, test results, and treatment options, while others might not feel comfortable talking to their healthcare provider at all. If you or a loved one is struggling to find your place on your healthcare team, or feel lost during doctors’ appointments, there are some steps you might consider trying to make the most of your time with your physician. These tips may also help you break into a more active role when it comes to treatment planning or symptom management.

Take notes or bring a loved one

When your healthcare provider is talking about confusing test results or treatment options that have unfamiliar names, it’s easy to want to zone out and not pay attention. However, trying to stay focused and taking notes during your visit may help you remember more from your appointment and allow you to process the information better later. If you would prefer to have someone else take notes, it’s always a good idea to ask a friend or family member to come to your appointment with you and be your designated note-taker, as well as someone you can bounce your thoughts off of after the appointment.

Do some research and ask questions

You may think of more questions later on or want to find out more about a topic your doctor brought up. After your appointment, doing a quick internet search or checking in with a support group can help you find out more about issues that you’re confused or concerned about. However, it’s important to remember that an internet search can lead to many results, and not all websites are accurate. Using major resources, such as the American Cancer Society or another medically-reviewed site, will generally have accurate and easy-to-understand information.

As you’re doing research, you may find that you have more questions than when you started. Make sure to write down any questions you have and bring them to your next doctor’s appointment so you can discuss what you need to during your visit.

Ask for different options and for more time

In some cases, there may only be one treatment option that is appropriate for your specific situation, and there may not be much of a choice to be made. However, in other cases, your doctor might be deciding between several different treatment options based on effectiveness, side effects, or cost.

Ask your doctor if there is more than one treatment option possible for you, and if you can help decide between them based on what you’re looking to get out of treatment. For example, if you know that you want to avoid a specific side effect, ask your doctor if there are any medications that might reduce the chance of you experiencing it.

If your doctor does give you several treatment options to choose from, it’s okay to ask for time to decide. You do not need to make a decision on the spot. You can go home and do some more research or ask friends or support group members what their experiences have been and use that to help make your decision later on.

You deserve to be heard

Most importantly, remember that if your doctor or healthcare provider doesn’t make you feel valued or heard, you can always seek a second opinion or a new provider (if possible).

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