How to prepare for your first appointment?

Consultation with an oncologist may be a stressful or fearful experience. Your first cancer appointment can be overwhelming. Your head may be buzzing with a host of fears, worries and questions. Our FAQ’s will help you prepare for your appointment so you will come away from the visit with the information you need to move forward in your cancer journey with confidence.

  1. What is the first step?

The first step is making an appointment with an oncologist — a doctor who specializes in treating cancer. If this is your first clinic visit, you should plan to arrive ½ to 1 hour prior to your appointment so you can register and complete formalities. You can ask for all concerned specialists one after the another. Learn about the pre consultation process, time taken so that you can schedule accordingly.

  1. What’s the most important thing I should do before my first meeting with my oncologist?

The first thing the oncologist will ask about is your medical history. When you get into the doctor’s office, it’s very easy to forget when things happened, so it’s helpful to write down your history to remember the timeline of events. Keep notes about your symptoms and what made you go to your doctor in the first place. What tests did your doctor order? Were you referred to additional specialists? Have you previously been treated for cancer?

  1. What should I bring with me?

In order to make it a thorough consultation, the oncologist you’re meeting with should have all your reports and other requested materials. This includes copies of scans, x-rays, MRIs, CTs, or other imaging tests that were done, and pathology slides and blocks if a biopsy was performed. It is always advisable to file them properly. Some hospitals have the practice of making their files. Please allow them to do so.

  1. What all information does the doctor need to know?

More than you can imagine, a lot depends on how well you and your cancer specialist communicate.  And talk is a 2 way street. It’s not just telling the doctor what’s wrong and him/her giving you statistics. It’s also your listening to them and the doctor listening to you.  You have very little time to develop a good working relationship with your doctor. From day one, your preparation will help establish good communication that will carry through all stages of diagnosis, treatment and recovery.

So it’s a good idea to be upfront with your doctor and let him/her know about your other medical conditions, previous surgeries, other cancers and treatment, prescription medicines, over-the-counter medicines, and herbal supplements. Don’t assume “it’s all there in the record.”  Make a list and bring it with you.  You may not realize it, but how well you’re handling your diabetes may impact on how well your chemotherapy works on your breast cancer or how well your radiation works on your prostate cancer.

  • Bring a list of any drugs you’re taking, both prescription and over-the-counter. Be sure to include vitamins, minerals, and supplements.
  • Organize copies of your information in a loose-leaf binder with pockets. It will become a handy reference kit.  Include a written list of questions about your diagnosis and treatment options.
  1. What are those key questions?

And even more questions come up after the consultation. So write those down so that you can talk with your cancer specialist at the next visit.  It often takes time for you to process everything that you have been told. If you still have a lot of questions, rather than calling the office with one at a time, schedule a follow up visit. This way you can have ample time to ask and more importantly, to understand.

Ask a family member or friend to accompany you.  Take complete notes of the conversation with the doctor so you can review the details later.

Having said that, here are some things that are helpful to discuss during your first appointment:

  • What is my diagnosis and how soon do I need to start therapy?
  • What are my treatment options, what’s involved, and how long will each treatment take?
  • What are the benefits of the recommended treatment?
  • What are its potential risks andside effects?
  • Should I consider participating in aclinical trial? Are they available in India?
  • How will treatment affect my daily routine? Can I continue to work through treatment?
  • Will treatment impact myfertility? If so, is there anything I can do to protect my ability to have children in the future? (relevant for some)
  • What should I do if I develop new symptoms after I begin treatment?
  • Whatsupport resources are available to help me cope with my diagnosis?
  • Whom should I call if I have additional questions after I leave the office?

For Consecutive appointments:

  1. Maintain a file where you can keep copies of all test results, medication, nutrition and therapy tips, and any other information that relates to your type of cancer, treatment or healthcare team. Bring this file to all the appointments.
  2. Be sure that you have completed the tests and followed instructions given during last visit.
  3. Define the purpose of your visit.
  4. Keep a running list of any questions that occur to you as you move forward, or side effects or problems that develop so you can discuss them with your healthcare team.
  5. Talk with your family about what is happening, perhaps even bringing certain members to appointments so they have a better understanding of your disease and how it can affect you physically and psychologically.

A good preparation prior to all consultations helps you and the consultant. It is very important to walk in to his office prepared.

Key Points

·       First consultation is the most important one

·       Since a lot of medical information is given over a short of period of time, there can be confusion in understanding the matter.

·       Better organization of mind and papers will decrease the confusion and loss of time and energy.

·       So, organize yourself and your papers.

·       Be well prepared and for all subsequent consultations.




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