When medical oncologist Dr. Jonathan Gross meets with newly diagnosed patients at Willamette Valley Cancer Institute in Corvallis, he’s there to listen and answer questions.
“When you have a new diagnosis of cancer, it’s scary. It’s a whole new world for patients,” he says. “Most people don’t know the difference between different cancer types, the treatment options available and what they’re going to be facing in the future.”
To prepare for your medical appointments, Dr. Gross offers these tips:
- Jot down any questions you may have and remember to bring them with you to your appointment. While not every question can be addressed at the first visit, this will help you get your thoughts in order.
- Bring a friend or family member with you to your appointments to help absorb and record all of the information being shared.
- Write down information or ask your friend or relative to take notes, so you can refer to it later.
- Don’t hesitate to ask your doctor to repeat, rephrase or expand upon the information if you don’t understand.
It’s important for patients to know that each cancer type is unique to an individual patient, so when researching information online, be sure to use reputable sites and discuss that information with your doctor.
“Your provider is going to have more specific information that applies to you personally. Your treatment plan—although you may have the same type of cancer as someone that you know—the treatment we recommend for you could be very, very different,” says Dr. Gross.
Questions patient should ask:
- What kind of cancer do I have? Is it a common type or a rare one? Can it be cured or managed?
- What stage is it and what does that mean?
- Do I have to undergo any further diagnostic tests before we can begin treatment?
- What are my treatment options?
- Which treatments would you recommend and why?
- What side effects could I experience?
- Am I eligible for a clinical trial?
- Is there a genetic link to this type of cancer? Should my other family members get tested?
- What can I do now and going forward to keep myself healthy?
- Where can I get more information or support?
Your appointments are designed to help you understand what’s happening and to make decisions that are right for you, so don’t hesitate to share your concerns with your providers.
Let your doctor know if you are interested in seeking a second opinion. Most physicians understand the value of a second opinion, and your current doctor may even be able to recommend another physician.
As a patient, you should feel that you are a valued member of your healthcare team. Your preferences, opinions and beliefs are all important in developing your treatment plan. It’s OK if you don’t have a complete grasp of everything after the first appointment because there will be future appointments and other opportunities to revisit your questions. Questions can also be asked through WVCI’s patient portal.
“We understand that being diagnosed with cancer is a new experience for most patients,” Dr. Gross says. “So, there is nothing wrong with starting with the most basic question—‘Am I going to be OK?’ It’s really important for patients to feel comfortable asking questions, and we expect them to ask those questions.”