Living with cancer blog

Communicating with your doctor

By Sheryl M. Ness, R.N. September 8, 2012

As a cancer survivor, you will be talking with your doctor on a regular basis. It is important that your needs are being met. At times, it can be difficult to stay focused during the visit with the doctor. However, good communication will help improve your care experience and lessen your worries and fears along the way.

Here are a few thoughts on how to improve communication with your doctor:

  • Write down your list of questions before your visit. Focus on the most important questions and be specific.
  • Bring a family member or friend with you to the appointment. Ask them to take notes and keep track of your questions and the doctor's responses.
  • Remember that you are in charge. Educate yourself before the appointment. Seek information and don't be afraid to ask your questions.
  • Ask the doctor to clarify anything you don't understand. To check for understanding, repeat back what you heard and ask for confirmation — "So, you are saying that I should..."

"Teamwork: The Cancer Patient's Guide to Talking with Your Doctor" is a great resource available from the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship (

Taking an active role in your care will help you learn more and feel more in control of what is happening to you. What has been your experience?


Sheryl M. Ness, R.N.

Sept. 08, 2012