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Most conversations between you and your doctors or nurses will probably go smoothly. However, it’s common for people to sometimes feel they’re not getting the information or support they need.
Here are some tips to help you:
You’ll often have to describe your symptoms, for example pain|, feeling sick (nausea)|, breathlessness| or some other medical problem. It’s also important to talk about your feelings and any symptoms of depression| or anxiety| you have. This may be difficult but it’s important to let people know how you feel.
Try to be as factual and open as you can when describing your problem. There may be a temptation to play down the symptoms to appear strong or brave. But it’s best to try to describe the problems in an honest, accurate way. This may not be easy but it will give your doctor a better understanding of your situation so they can help you in the best way.
Your feelings and fears may make it difficult for you to ask your medical team the right questions and to remember their answers. You might find these tips useful:
Our sections on getting the best from your cancer services| and ask about your cancer treatment| may help you to think of questions you’d like to ask your doctors or nurses.
It isn’t always possible to get definite answers. You may have to accept that uncertainties are common, especially with questions about the future. When the conversation is about things that threaten your health or your view of the future, you may think that your doctor or nurse knows what’s going to happen but won’t tell you. Usually, that isn’t the case.
There’s usually a lot of uncertainty with cancer treatment and your doctors and nurses won’t always be able to tell you exactly what will happen to you. Even if statistics show that a treatment has often been successful in the past, there’s no way of anyone knowing for sure how well it will work for you. It may help you cope better if you can understand how your progress will be measured. For example, you can say, ‘So you can see from the x-rays if the treatment is working?’
If you’re unhappy with the care you receive from your healthcare team, try to talk about your worries with them as sensitively as you can. If you can say what you’re unhappy with and how it affects you, they can hopefully change the situation so that it gets better.
Content last reviewed: 1 July 2012
Next planned review: 2014
For answers, support or just a chat, call the Macmillan Support Line free (Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm)
If you have any questions about cancer, need support or just want someone to talk to, ask Macmillan.
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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