Working with Your Health Care Team to Create a Cancer Treatment Plan

Cancer affects people differently; so before you begin your treatment, it may be helpful to work with your health care team to have a written treatment plan.  This can be a useful communication tool for you and your doctor as it helps you have a full big picture view of what’s to come.  It will keep you organized, enable you to ask questions, and assist you to have a thorough discussion with your doctors about your cancer treatment. 

Your cancer treatment plan will factor in your specific situation based on your diagnosis and pathology report.  You and your doctor will base your treatment decisions on YOUR unique situation, including your overall medical condition and your personal considerations.

What Your Cancer Treatment Plan Should Include

  • Your cancer diagnosis, tumor characteristics, diagnostic tests performed to diagnose your specific type of cancer, how often these tests will need to be performed, treatments received or plan to receive, and supportive service you have available to you
  • Dates and location of scheduled  treatments
  • Side effects of treatments
  • Recommendations and precautions to take to manage side-effects of treatment  
  • Information on scheduling of follow-up visits, screening tests, etc.
  • Complete contact information for members of your health care team

For a sample treatment plan, view the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s cancer treatment templates.

Some Tips to Help You Work with Your Health Care Team on a Treatment Plan.

  • Research your treatment options. To feel more confident in the decision you make, it may be helpful to take initiative on researching what treatment options are available. Ask your doctor about resources to supplement your discussions. It may also be helpful to get a second opinion from another doctor as it is common practice to do so in areas of medicine that are complex and where multiple options are available.
  • Record your conversations: Take notes or bring a recorder to keep track of what the doctor tells you.  It will be a good reference to go back to later if you have questions.
  • Bring someone with you. If you are comfortable sharing your medical information with someone, bring them along.  They can provide you moral support, catch key points that you may have missed, take notes for you, and remind you to discuss side effects or issues that you have forgotten.
  • Write down your questions prior to your appointment. There’s a lot that goes on during appointments.  They can sometimes be stressful or emotional so it may be hard to remember every question you have.
  • Make sure you understand. There can be a lot of information to digest.  If you don’t understand something, ask. Relaying the information back to the doctor can also be helpful to know that everyone is on the same page.
  • Ask for the best way to contact your health care team. Questions may come up between appointments. Ask for a contact, what type of communication is preferred and what time period can you expect to receive a response. Find out where you should go and who you should report to during a true emergency situation. 

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