You're likely to start by first seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner. If your doctor suspects you may have hairy cell leukemia, you may be referred to a doctor who treats diseases of the blood and bone marrow (hematologist).
Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready and know what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
- Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. At the time you make the appointment, be sure to ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as restrict your diet.
- Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
- Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
- Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements that you're taking.
- Consider taking a family member or friend along. Sometimes it can be difficult to remember all the information provided during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions can help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For hairy cell leukemia, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What kinds of tests do I need?
- Will I require treatment for my hairy cell leukemia?
- If I don't have treatment, will my leukemia worsen?
- If I require treatment, what are my options?
- Will treatment cure my hairy cell leukemia?
- What are the side effects of each treatment option?
- Is there one treatment you feel is best for me?
- How will cancer treatment affect my daily life?
- I have these other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
- Are there any restrictions that I need to follow?
- Should I see a specialist? What will that cost, and will my insurance cover it?
- Are there brochures or other printed material that I can take with me? What websites do you recommend?
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask other questions during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may allow more time later to cover other points you want to address. Your doctor may ask:
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- When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
- Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
- What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
- Lichtman MA, et al. Williams Hematology. 8th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2010. http://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com/book.aspx?bookId=358. Accessed Oct. 16, 2014.
- Jain P, et al. Update on the biology and treatment options for hairy cell leukemia. Current Treatment Opinions in Oncology. 2014;15:187.
- Naik RR, et al. My treatment approach to hairy cell leukemia. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2012;87:67.
- Tallman MS, et al. Clinical features and diagnosis of hairy cell leukemia. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Nov. 8, 2014.
- Hoffman R, et al. Hematology: Basic Principles and Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2013. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Oct. 16, 2014.
- Hairy cell leukemia treatment (PDQ): Health professional version. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/hairy-cell-leukemia/HealthProfessional/page1. Accessed Nov. 8, 2014.
- Tallman MS, et al. Treatment of hairy cell leukemia. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Nov. 8, 2014.
- Integrative medicine & complementary and alternative therapies as part of blood cancer care. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. http://www.lls.org/#/resourcecenter/freeeducationmaterials/treatment/integrativemedandcam. Accessed Nov. 8, 2014