On a cancer journey, medical experts can give you direction but it’s up to you to ask for clarification to get to your destination of recovery. Medical terminology can be overwhelming, but don’t be afraid to keep asking – the only stupid question is the one you didn’t ask. Dr Ernst Marais, Chief Operating Officer of the Independent Clinical Oncology Network (ICON) says there are eight steps to follow to make sure you get the best cancer treatment.
Doctors used to be authority figures who told us what to do based on the best information they had. But those attitudes are changing and doctors are more open to patients collaborating with their medical teams, also because there’s so much information available on the internet and from support groups.
If you’re well informed you’ll have a more fruitful discussion with your medical team. But don’t rely on the internet alone. Ask your doctor for good reference material, speak to other cancer patients and consult their support groups and credible experts.
A cancer diagnosis is definitely scary, but you shouldn’t feel frightened into making a treatment decision immediately. Always be guided by your doctor, but even the most aggressive cancers will usually allow you a few weeks to think things through rationally and to get input from trusted sources.
If practically possible, get in touch with the doctors who know most about your specific type of cancer. There has been so much new information in oncology in recent years that it makes sense to seek out the specialists in a particular field.
No doctor worth their salt should be offended if you want a second opinion. You should not have to worry about hurting your doctor’s feelings, or staying quiet for fear of ruining a good relationship. It is your life that is on the line.
Whoever you choose to be on your medical team is potentially with you for the rest of your life because follow-ups are required even if you’re in remission. So make sure you connect with them and communicate easily, as they become your extended family.
Play an active role in your treatment and recovery.
Take a list of questions to every doctor’s consultation to help you remember what you want to ask. Or if you have a smart device, download a voice recorder app to capture every session.
Then you won’t have to try to remember everything, you can refer back and you can ask again at the next consultation.
At the end of every consultation, ask your doctor if you can sum up in your own words what you’ve heard, to make sure you understand what’s happening.
You can call the Independent Clinical Oncology Network (ICON) on 021 944 3750, email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.iconsa.co.za.