How to Speak With an Oncologist



September 10, 2020

Being diagnosed with cancer is scary. As you go through treatment, you will want to make sure that you are getting the best care possible. 

Oncologists will play a key role in a cancer patient's life and in order for them to improve your treatment experience, both the oncologist and the patient must communicate effectively.  

Communication Techniques for Patients with Cancer

Start by talking about your goals for the conversation

When you are preparing for an oncology appointment, you should start by writing down your questions and concerns. When looking back over them, note down your top three topics or goals for your appointment. This will help you keep your questions organized and aid you in moving towards your goal of recovery. 

By starting with your most important topics, you will ensure that your oncologist has ample time to provide you with an in-depth answer and also discuss other topics related to that. 

Ask open-ended questions

Try to stay away from asking “yes” or “no” questions. By asking open-ended questions, you can gain a deeper understanding of your diagnosis and treatments. 

For example, switch asking, “Do the results look good?” with, “What concerns you the most about these scans?”

Asking questions that allow you to understand the situation from the perspective of your oncologist will give you more insight into the state of your health. 

Confirm your understanding

Understanding the information during your oncology appointment is crucial. It will not only allow you to make informed decisions about your treatment, but it will also help reduce any anxiety you feel. 

If at any time during your appointment, you do not understand what your oncologist is saying, ask them to elaborate or to repeat what they said. Another technique you can use is to repeat the information you were just told out loud. This way, the oncologist knows what you understood from what they said and can help you fill in any gaps. 

Tell them everything and don’t withhold any information 

Keeping secrets about your side effects, lifestyle habits and other things can cause unnecessary delays and may also worsen your condition. If you have been smoking, drinking or have even been experiencing emotional issues, do not withhold that information from your oncologist because this information could have an impact on the effectiveness of your treatment. 

Share your goals and aspirations

Tell your oncologist what matters in your life. This way, they can keep your goals in mind when designing a treatment plan for you. For example, your oncologist can give you suggestions on how to finish your treatment soon so you can go back to work as soon as possible; however, they wouldn’t recommend that to you if you don’t tell them that you want to finish the treatment as quickly as possible. 

Discuss treatment and next steps

Receiving the news about cancer can be terrifying, but before you leave your appointment, you have to discuss the next steps in the process so that you have a clear goal or destination to work towards. The next steps could be scheduling another appointment to run tests or even starting the treatment process. Having your oncologist lay out the next steps for you will show you that the situation is under control and being handled efficiently and effectively. 

Ask for help

There are many common emotions with a cancer diagnosis such as grief, fear, and anxiety. Oncologists often have someone on staff who can guide patients through the emotional care they need. Additionally, if you are feeling overwhelmed with finances and other things regarding your care, you may consider hiring a Healthcare Advisor