Tips for Discussing Diagnosis & Treatment Options with Your Loved Ones.

 

I was asked the following question.”If you’re significant other is diagnosed with cancer, what is the best way to breakdown the options the doctor gave you? Without it being overwhelming and adding stress to an already stressful situation?”

 

There obviously is not a perfect answer to this question so here is my response.

 

Talking about cancer is challenging because it involves intense emotions. The decisions are complicated by feelings of anxiety, unfamiliar words, statistics, and a sense of urgency.

 

It is important to keep in mind your significant other is scared to die and leave you. And the patient needs to remember that the caretaker is just as frightened to lose you and be alone.

 

When discussing treatment options, it is necessary first that you understand your diagnosis. You may want to ask your health care team questions about the disease. Be careful when doing research online. Many sites can be frightening, inaccurate, or misleading. You can ask your doctor for trustworthy websites that they recommend. When your doctor isn’t available to speak with you request to talk to the patient coordinator, they are helpful and usually can be more accommodating.

 

Maybe you know someone who has been through a similar situation. That person can be a useful resource. Just remember that not all cancers are the same.

 

If you breakdown the conversation into smaller steps, this will help the situation not be as overwhelming or intimidating.

 

You need to understand the goals of the treatment. Make sure the doctor explains the intent or purpose of your treatment plan and how it will affect you. Make sure that his/her goal aligns with your personal goals for treatment.

 

Have a conversation about the side effects of each treatment option. Your doctor will discuss this with you.

 

You will need to have a conversation about the possible side effect of each treatment option. The side effects are often more complicated than the treatment itself.

 

Most likely, you have a better understanding of the full picture after several smaller conversations.

 

Now it is time to talk about the risks and benefits of each treatment option.
Weight the positives and negatives of each.
What is the chance of a cure?
What are the potential short and long-term side effects?
What is the likelihood that cancer will come back after treatment?
Here is a tough one. What are the chances of living longer with or without treatment?
What is the impact on your quality of life and independence?

 

Again I would urge you to slow down and weigh the risks of each treatment option during different conversations. Then after those conversations take place, bring your notes, and sit down again to discuss.

 

And don’t forget a second, third, and fourth opinion can help with your decisions.

 

The last thing to discuss at the beginning is the financial impact this can cause on your family and relationship. I am hoping you have a health insurance plan. You can use their resources to make sure that your cancer treatment team and each facility that you would be visiting is in the network. You can speak with someone at your insurance company they will be another person on your side. You should also talk to the financial person at your oncologist office. In my own experience, the new of pharmaceutical companies who will help pay towards your deductible. If you do not have health insurance, they also can help find grants to help ease some of the financial burdens.

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