Making the most of your clinic visit

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Talking to your health-care team can be difficult, especially for teenagers. Learn tips to help you feel more comforable speaking with your health-care team.

Key points

  • It is important to be honest with your health-care team about your symptoms and how you are feeling so that they can help you manage.
  • Listen to the answers your health-care team gives you, and ask lots of questions. If you don't understand something, ask again.
  • You do not need to participate in research studies if you do not feel comfortable; this will not impact the level of care you receive.
  • Tell your health-care team as soon as possible if you cannot attend an apopintment.

Talking to doctors or other health-care professionals is often hard for teenagers. For this reason, Dr. John Reiss, a health psychologist in Florida, developed five tips to help teenagers feel more comfortable talking with members of their health-care team.

1. Give information about all your symptoms

Remember, symptoms are the signs that something is different or not right in your body or your mind.

  • Be honest! Hiding symptoms or feelings won't make them go away.
  • Use a journal, computer or app to track your symptoms, feelings and thoughts so you can remember them at appointments. When writing down your symptoms remember to describe:
    • what they feel like and when they happen
    • what makes your symptoms better or worse
    • how your symptoms affect your day-to-day activities
    • how you feel about these symptoms, or in general, about your treatment

2. Listen and learn

As a teenager or young adult, you are responsible for listening to, and remembering, what health-care professionals tell you. This can be overwhelming! Most people can remember only two or three things that doctors tell them unless they write them down.

Here are some tips to help you learn and remember.

  • Take a notebook, your phone or a laptop with you when you visit the doctor.
  • Write down the information that you need to remember, or even bring a recording device or another person to take notes.
  • After the appointment, review any information your health-care team gave you.
  • If you are going online to research cancer or treatment, ask your health-care team to recommend websites. Don’t forget to ask them any questions that come up from exploring the resources you find on the internet.

3. Ask lots of questions. If you don’t understand the answer, ask again!

Ask all the questions you need to ask about your cancer and keep asking until you understand. You can ask questions at any point during treatment.

Here are some tips for asking questions.

  • Think of your questions ahead of time, write them down, and bring them to visits.
  • You can also write down questions during the appointment.
  • Make sure that your health-care team answers each question on your list using words and terms that you understand. If you don’t understand a word, ask them what it means.
  • Repeat the answer using your own words, to make sure you understand.
  • Write down the answer.
  • Some doctors let their patients send questions to them in an email. Ask your health-care team if you can email your questions.

4. Decide

In many cases, your doctor will tell you about a treatment plan that they believe is the best treatment known for your kind of cancer. Any decision about your treatment and health requires consent from you and/or your parents.

Your health-care team will likely decide which medication and treatment will work best to treat the type of cancer you have, but you can help them with other decisions such as scheduling treatment or clinic visits.

In some cases, your doctor will ask if you would like to take part in a research study (clinical trial) and will explain the study to you. Taking part in research studies is optional. This means you get to decide if you want to participate. Your health-care team can help you make a decision that is right for you. If you choose not to take part in a research study, you will still be treated with the standard treatment for that type of cancer. You are the key person in managing your health, so your thoughts and decisions are very important.

5. Do! (With the support of others)

Once you understand and agree with a plan, follow it to make sure you get the best results. If you are finding it hard, or if something is not working for you, talk to your team and they will help you.

Two of the most important things you can do during your treatment are to:

  • follow through with taking the medications that you are responsible for taking
  • attend scheduled treatments and appointments

If you are unable to attend a scheduled appointment, let your health-care team know as soon as you can so that they can make a new appointment for you. However, try your best to keep to your scheduled appointments because delays in treatment can affect how well the treatment works. Your treatments will often be most effective when you are following your plan.

Last updated: September 3rd 2019