How do I work with a specialist on my treatment plan?

23 Aug 2021

As the CEO of your body, it’s important to employ people around you whose mission is to deliver you the best care and results for your health – both from a preventative and ongoing health management perspective.

With this in mind, making you the centre of any decision-making on your health is essential for the best possible outcome. Because at the end of the day, you benefit the most from being a part of the decision-making process and will be far more relaxed if you understand and feel in control of what your treatment involves, and what it will or possibly will not do.

Having an appointment ‘buddy’ such as a friend, partner, or family member to accompany you to your appointments will help ensure you can not only take in all the information but that you can walk back through it after your appointment as well, to be sure you are considering each option for your treatment.

It’s also a great idea to ask your doctor to give you all the information in writing, along with supporting written materials and always ask questions if there is anything that you don’t understand. For example: “What are the pros and cons of having this surgery?” or “Do I have any other treatment options?”

If a treatment is proposed that makes you uncomfortable or uncertain, ask if there are other treatments available that you can consider. And if treatment cost is a concern, ask if less expensive choices are available. Your specialist should work with you to develop a treatment plan that meets all of your needs.

Your specialist will send a copy of the information about your diagnosis and treatment to your GP, this ensures your GP also understands and is aware of your medical care and treatment plan.

What to consider when deciding on a treatment

Explore different treatment options. There can be different ways to manage many health conditions, ask your doctor what your options are. With the arrival of precision medicine, immunotherapies and personalised treatments, there are more options than ever when it comes to managing a cancer diagnosis. By working collaboratively with your doctor and understanding your cancer type – and whether it is the result of a genetic mutation, such as BRCA – you may well be able to utilise some of these targeted therapies to better treat your cancer.

Understand the risks and benefits. When you are clear on your options, ask about the pros and cons of each treatment option.

It’s important to consider what the side effects might be, how long the treatment will continue, and how likely it is that the treatment will work for you. What are the long term expectations both around treatment outcomes and therapies beyond the initial treatment?

Be clear on how your treatment may impact your quality of life. When considering the pros and cons, don’t forget to ask about any impact on your quality of life. Will the side effects interfere with your ability to live your life, as normally as possible? What costs will be covered by your insurance? Doctors need to understand what’s important to you so they can work with you, developing a treatment plan that meets your needs.

Questions You Can Ask About Treatment Options

    • Are there any risks associated with the treatment?
    • How quickly should treatment start? How long will it last?
    • Are there other treatments available?
    • How much will the treatment cost? What will my insurance cover?

You can find a full list of questions you can ask on our website, here.

If You Need Surgery
In some cases, surgery may be the best treatment option or a part of your treatment plan. In this case, you will be referred to a surgeon. Understanding the surgery you need helps you make informed decisions about how to move forward and it will help you prepare for surgery, leading to a better recovery.

Ask the surgeon to explain the surgery and ask if they recommend any material, videos, or websites you can review. It’s important to understand if you will stay overnight in the hospital or if the surgery will be day surgery. Will you need someone to drive you home?

Questions to Ask Your Surgeon

    • What is the success rate of the surgery?
    • What problems can occur with this surgery? What level of pain or discomfort can I expect?
    • What kind of anaesthesia will I have?
    • Will I have to stay in the hospital overnight?
    • How long is recovery expected to take and what does it involve? When can I expect to get back to my normal routine?

You can find a full list of questions you can ask on our website, here.

Getting a Second Opinion
If you are diagnosed with a serious illness and surgery is recommended, patients often seek a second opinion. The views of two different doctors can help you get clearer on what’s best for you. Don’t be shy, doctors are used to this, and most will not be insulted by your desire to seek a second opinion. Your doctor may even be able to suggest other doctors who can review your case.

Health Information Online
Often people will head to Dr Google and search online to research information about health problems. However, it’s incredibly important to understand that not all health information on the internet is of equal quality or reputable. Ask your GP or specialist how to find resources that are accurate and reliable, and don’t forget to talk with your doctor about what you’ve learned online.

This article was sponsored by Astra Zeneca and developed independently by the team at Pink Hope in consultation with medical experts.