Overall Suggestions

1. Some of these questions may lead to very scary information, especially if you don't know whether your doctor tends to be pessimistic (brutally and depressingly "honest") or optimistic (finds reasons for hope in spite of the "facts"). Make sure you want to know the answers before you ask.

2. If you don't want to know right then or ever, don't feel guilty. Whatever works for you is right for you. There were days when I couldn't deal with it all and didn't ask. That's OK. Give yourself some breathing space when you need it.

3. Find a doctor who is experienced, kind, has a personality you like, is willing to include family if that is important for you, can be honest if asked, and is willing to take time for you. One of his responsibilities to his patients is to provide information to promote health.

4. Ask the most important question first. Obviously there are too many questions listed below to ask and absorb the answers in one visit, so you might want to ask only the ones most pertinent at each visit.

5. Researching the topic of your questions prior to the visit may lead to more fruitful question-answer sessions. Ask other health professionals, go to a nearby medical library or patient resource library, or use the web to find factual sources. Remember...not all you read on the web is accurate.

6. Some of these questions would be more appropriate to ask others (nurse, social worker, chaplain, nutritionist, resource room librarian, religious leader, financial office personnel, support group leader and members, family members, etc.).

7. All of your questions are important to ask. Make sure that you understand the answers. Don't accept "gobbly-de-gook" or "techno-babble". After all, it is your body. If you want to understand what is happening and why, then ask.

8. Top priority before any visit is to prepare yourself with a written list of questions and, if necessary, practice stating what you want to say. At the meeting, state your concerns and ask your questions before the exam as these questions may guide the visit and exam. Don't ramble at length. Get to the point and be concise. Be as precise as possible.

9. Never leave your visit without telling the doctor about your concerns or problems. If you leave with them unspoken, you are creating half the problem. Never have the physician try to guess what is wrong with you. They sometimes act like they know it all, but they don't know you personally, nor do they know your personal situation.

10. Don't think, "The doctor is too busy for me." You are paying for the visit and deserve to get your questions answered. However, emergencies do occur and so you may need to schedule an appointment with the express purpose of having an increased time to talk and to address your questions. While it is legitimate that he may not have time for a 30 minute discussion today, he should be able to schedule you in the near future.

11. Take someone else whose job is just to listen. Two sets of ears are often better than one. The primary job of the second person is to really listen to the answers and to take notes. Consider taking a tape recorder so you can review what the doctor has said or play back for family members, but ask before using it. You should listen and not write anything down yourself, because during the time you are concentrating on writing something, he could be saying something else that's just as important.

12. If you don't understand something, especially something you are supposed to do, ask for additional explanations.

13. At the conclusion of the meeting, restate what you have learned. Check your list of questions.

14. At the conclusion, the physician should tell you what he expects he can do. Ask for a reasonable time period as to when he will get back to you with additional information or scheduling of additional tests/procedures, etc.

15. Your doctor and other health care providers are your guides through the maze. Utilize this resource wisely.

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