Consultation with an oncologist may be a stressful or fearful experience. Your head may be buzzing with a host of fears, worries and questions. The first step is making an appointment with an oncologist — a doctor who specializes in treating cancer. If this is your first clinic visit, you should plan to arrive ½ to 1 hour prior to your appointment so you can register and complete formalities. You can ask for all concerned specialists one after the other.
Learn about the pre consultation process, time taken so that you can schedule accordingly. The first thing the oncologist will ask about is your medical history. When you get into the doctor’s office, it’s very easy to forget when things happened, so it’s helpful to write down your history to remember the timeline of events. Keep notes about your symptoms and what made you go to your doctor in the first place. What tests did your doctor order? Were you referred to additional specialists? Have you previously been treated for cancer?
In order to make it a thorough consultation, the oncologist you’re meeting with should have all your reports and other requested materials. This includes copies of scans, x-rays, MRIs, CTs, or other imaging tests that were done, and pathology slides and blocks if a biopsy was performed. It is always advisable to file them properly. Some hospitals have the practice of making their files. Please allow them to do so.
More than you can imagine, a lot depends on how well you and your cancer specialist communicate. And talk is a 2 way street. It’s not just telling the doctor what’s wrong and him/her giving you statistics. It’s also your listening to them and the doctor listening to you. You have very little time to develop a good working relationship with your doctor. From day one, your preparation will help establish good communication that will carry through all stages of diagnosis, treatment and recovery.
So it’s a good idea to be upfront with your doctor and let him/her know about your other medical conditions, previous surgeries, other cancers and treatment, prescription medicines, over-the-counter medicines, and herbal supplements. Don’t assume “it’s all there in the record.” Make a list and bring it with you. You may not realize it, but how well you’re handling your diabetes may impact on how well your chemotherapy works on your breast cancer or how well your radiation works on your prostate cancer.
• Bring a list of any drugs you’re taking, both prescription and over-the-counter. Be sure to include vitamins, minerals, and supplements.
• Organize copies of your information in a loose-leaf binder with pockets. It will become a handy reference kit. Include a written list of questions about your diagnosis and treatment options.