You Finished Treatment, Now What? Part Ten: How to Talk so Your Oncologist Listens and Listen so Your Oncologist Talks (with Apologies to Farber & Mazlich**)
A Ten Part Series for Cancer Survivors/Thrivers from Your Licensed Naturopathic Doctor
When you are pursuing natural, integrative medicine alongside conventional care, you may have information to share and certainly questions to ask. A vast majority of cancer patients are doing, using or practicing some forms of integrative medicine during and after conventional cancer care is completed. Learning the best ways for you to communicate, share information and ask questions is important.
The oncology world has spent time examining patient communication and continues to try to figure out what approaches work best. It can be challenging for patients to take in all the medical-ese and science behind many cancer diagnoses and treatments, especially if you feel stressed in the clinic or hospital setting and the information is flying at you faster than you can take it in. Online patient portals have an impact here too, making information sharing easier, but sometimes overwhelming. This is true for those in treatment, living with cancer or who have completed conventional care.
Here are some of my guidelines to help support you as you navigate this part of being a cancer patient and/or survivor/thriver. We can always improve the way we work with our providers and aim for clear and effective communication.
1. Bring a friend or support person to all your appointments. You don’t have to go it alone. If you don’t feel you have anyone to bring, ask if a social worker can accompany you to your visit. Many facilities have social workers on staff to help.
2. Create a folder or notebook or place on your computer where you can keep and organize all relevant information.
3. Create an updated “history of present illness” one-pager that you can share with any new provider. Delineate date of diagnosis, what the diagnosis was, what the biopsy revealed, what treatments you had and how you tolerated those treatments. Include any natural medicine approaches used or are using. The more information you have on hand, the more informed conversation you can have.
4. Do your homework, or have a loved one do it for you. Read about options related to your care. Is there any new treatment being offered for people with a similar diagnosis?
5. And when treatment is completed, you can ask, what are we actively doing to prevent recurrence? I am not satisfied with simply testing and ramping up surveillance! There are so many other powerful approaches to use to help support immune function, to get the mind working on your behalf, to use nutrition to optimize recovery, strength and energy and whole person medicines to support your establishing and maintaining better health. See the other posts in this series with live links listed below.
6. Consider asking for a referral to the person at your facility overseeing clinical trials. Often there are relevant trials you might be eligible for. And if not, it can be good to establish that relationship, because you may need to circle back around to that person one day.
7. Know that there is a whole world of translational medicine, described in Wikipedia as “….a rapidly growing discipline in biomedical research that aims to expedite the discovery of new diagnostic tools and treatments by using a multi-disciplinary, highly collaborative, “bench-to-bedside” approach.” This is a much-needed step as many well researched, evidence-based effective treatments exist that have just not made it to the clinic yet.
8. SO! Bring evidence for the efficacy of approaches you are considering or utilizing. Pubmed is a clearing house for much medical and scientific research. If you understand that Curcumin might be good for you to help prevent recurrence, but your oncologist is raising an eyebrow, you can go to your search engine & type in Pubmed curcumin cancer. Many articles will come up like this one. If you don’t have much of a science background, many of the articles will be hard to wade through, but you can read the summary or conclusion and get enough of the gist. Bring hard copies with you to share and ask your doctor’s opinion. In the other posts in this series, I include references for most all items or strategies recommended. You might want to check out the Naturopathic Oncology Foundation website, which has sections on all aspects of oncology research related to natural and integrative medicine.
9. Bring your written list of questions and concerns with you and be sure to let your doctor know from the outset that you have questions today. And be sure to write down or have the person with you write down answers. Many of my patients ask if they can record the visit, which I am happy to do. Everyone learns differently and remembers information differently. Work to advocate for communication approaches that are effective for you.
10. Ask what the best way to contact your doctor is — some are happy to field emails, others seem to discourage contact. I urge my patients to find direct numbers or emails to the support staff, so questions or concerns can be registered in a timely fashion. I also want my patients to respect my privacy and to not abuse my contact information!
11. Recall the second opinion. Many patients diagnosed with cancer are entitled to a second opinion and it’s never too late to ask for that. Even when care is completed, if you are looking for other approaches to help prevent recurrence, another provider might have a fresh perspective.
12. Remember expressions of gratitude and kindness to and for your provider. Thank-you notes, small tokens of appreciation and kind words go a long way in expressing your appreciation to your providers. Who does not want to be appreciated?
Communication is at the heart of healing, so optimizing your capacity to both share and take in information from your oncologist is an essential part of going though cancer treatment and continues once therapies are stopped or completed.
As I end this ten part series, I hope you have found useful information for you or a loved one. You can find other writing of mine on the topic of cancer here. For more information about naturopathic medicine, see the Institute for Natural Medicine website.
**the authors of the best selling book, How to Talk So Your Kids Listen & Listen So Your Kids Talk
Additional pieces in this series:
· *You Finished Treatment, Now What? Part One: Exercise#naturopathic #naturopathicmedicine #dramyrothenberg
· *You Finished Treatment, Now What? Part Two: Nutrition and Eating#naturopathic #naturopathicmedicine #dramyrothenberg
· *You Finished Treatment, Now What? Part Three: Intermittent Fasting#naturopathic #naturopathicmedicine #dramyrothenberg
· *You Finished Treatment, Now What? Part Four: The Head Game#naturopathic #naturopathicmedicine #dramyrothenberg
· *You Finished Treatment, Now What? Part Five: Botanical Medicine #naturopathic #naturopathicmedicine #dramyrothenberg
· *You Finished Treatment, Now What? Part Six: Off Label Use of Pharmaceuticals #naturopathic #naturopathicmedicine #dramyrothenberg
· *You Finished Treatment, Now What? Part Seven: Nutritional Supplements#naturopathic #naturopathicmedicine #dramyrothenberg
· *You Finished Treatment, Now What?*Part Eight: Acupuncture & Homeopathy #naturopathic #naturopathicmedicine #dramyrothenberg
· *You Finished Treatment, Now What? Part Ten: How to Talk so Your Oncologist Listens and Listen so Your Oncologist Talks(with Apologies to Farber & Mazlich**)