Building a Relationship With Your Cancer Care Team

August 28, 2014
Amber Bauer, ASCO staff

After a cancer diagnosis, your relationships with your doctors and other health care professionals are likely to become some of the most important in your life. Because you will be spending so much time with your team throughout treatment and will share the highs and lows of this experience with them, it is important to find an oncologist that you not only feel confident in but also feel comfortable with.

“Realize whoever you choose as a doctor is going to potentially be with you for the rest of your life,” advised Desiree, a cancer survivor. “That helped me to realize the importance of making sure that the medical team that I created were people that I could connect to, that I could communicate with, because they are actually an extended family.”

According to a 2013 study, people with cancer want their team to include sensitive and caring individuals who can provide useful, understandable information, listen and respond to their questions and concerns, and try to understand what they are going through. But building this type of relationship takes time and effort on both sides. So, just like in the beginning of any relationship, asking questions and talking is essential.

Some people with cancer find it difficult to talk openly with their doctor. This could be because of fear and shock, medical jargon, language barriers, or numerous other reasons.  One idea is to send your written questions to the doctor ahead of time before the appointment, so you don’t need to ask them one by one. Or, sometimes people feel more comfortable talking with a nurse, physician assistant, or social worker on the team instead. The important point to remember is that it is always okay to ask questions of your health care team, and there are support services to help with any language barriers you may face.

For more guidance on navigating the potential challenges of talking with your cancer care team, you can watch the video below. This video offers personal perspectives and advice from both survivors and health care professionals.  It is being offered through a four-part “Navigating Challenges” series for people newly diagnosed with cancer facing real-world barriers to high quality cancer care.

This ASCO patient education video series was made possible by a grant from the LIVESTRONG Foundation to the Conquer Cancer Foundation.

Watch another Cancer.Net video about the roles of different members of an oncology care team, and how each contributes to the care of patients.


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