Most conversations between you and your doctors or nurses will probably go smoothly.
However, your feelings and fears may make it difficult for you to ask your medical team the right questions and to remember their answers.
Conversations with healthcare staff
It’s common for people to sometimes feel they’re not getting the information or support they need.
Here are some practical tips for when you are talking to healthcare staff.
- Think of the most important questions you want answered before you meet with your doctor.
- You can take notes during the meeting or ask if you can record the discussion, so you can listen to it later.
- You can ask for a copy of any letters summarising the details of your discussion.
- Take a relative or friend with you to appointments. They can help you remember things that the doctor says, and questions you want to ask.
- Be honest and factual when describing problems. Don’t play down symptoms and say if you have difficult feelings such as anxiety or depression.
- Use your own language. Your doctors or nurses may use medical terms, but you don’t have to.
- Ask for simpler explanations. It’s okay to say you don’t understand the terms used and ask for them to explain things in a simpler way.
- Say if you’re embarrassed. You can say, ‘I’m sorry, this is embarrassing to talk about, but…’.
- Make sure you understand. Summarise what you have been told. You can say, ‘So you’re saying that…’ or ‘If I’ve got that right, you mean that…’.
- Remember, you can ask to make another appointment to ask more questions if you don’t cover everything in the first discussion.
- Ask if there is a phone number for a nurse specialist you can contact if you’ve forgotten to ask a question or if you don’t understand something.
We have a tool that may help you to think about things that are going well or could be improved with your treatment.
It is taken from the website thinkaboutyourlife.org, which was developed by cancer survivors. The website has examples, stories and support to help you use the tool.
You can download a PDF of the tool.
We also have information about asking about your cancer treatment. It may help you to think of questions you’d like to ask your doctors or nurses.