Your Role in Developing Your Treatment Plan
- Talk with your provider about his or her treatment recommendations.
- Work with your provider to write down the treatment plan.
- Talk with your provider about adding complementary treatments such as massage or acupuncture.
- Talk with loved ones about the effects of treatment.
If you don't feel well enough to do this on your own, ask someone you trust to help you. This can be a loved one, friend or social worker. Tell your provider if you prefer to wait until later in your treatment process to get involved in these types of decisions.
Your cancer treatment plan should be based on:
- The type and stage of your cancer.
- Results of physical exams, lab results and other diagnostic tests.
- Results of X-rays and digital imaging such as CT, MRI and PET scans.
- Your medical history including other chronic health conditions.
- Information about all treatments available for your type and stage of cancer.
- Discussion and review of clinical trial options.
- The risks and benefits of each treatment option.
- Information about effects that may be long term, also known as aftereffects or late effects.
- What you want, including concerns about pain and quality of life.
Consider All Your Treatment Options
Talk with loved ones and close friends about how treatment might affect your life. You might decide that certain side effects are reasons to avoid some methods. Keep in mind that it may be possible to work with your health care team to lessen some side effects.
Discuss ideas with your provider such as adding complementary or alternative treatments. These may include acupuncture, nutrition, massage, counseling and other healing methods.
It is very important to tell your provider everything you are doing or want to do to get better. Some things, such as herbs or supplements, may cause unwanted side effects when combined with certain treatments. They could also decrease the effectiveness of some cancer therapies.
Your provider will offer you his or her best medical knowledge and recommendations. You must decide on the treatment that is best for you. If you need help, ask a loved one, social worker or a patient navigator to assist you in weighing the options. You can also ask for another medical opinion.
The National Comprehensive Cancer Network offers guidelines to help you obtain the most current recommendations for treating specific types and stages of cancer. Ask your health care provider if your care plan follows the NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology™. You’ll find the most current NCCN Guidelines for Patients on their website. If your care plan is different than the NCCN recommendations, discuss the reasons. If you are not comfortable with the reasons your providergives you, ask to be referred for another opinion.
LIVESTRONG partners with Navigate Cancer Foundation to offer free services by experienced cancer nurses. They will work with you and your loved ones to answer questions and provide information about your type of cancer. They can translate your medical records and scans for you and discuss the options you have for treatment. They can also help you find qualified health care providers for another medical opinion.
Your Treatment Care Plan
After you and your health care provider have agreed on your plan for cancer care, ask for a written treatment care plan summary.
Your plan should include:
- The specific types of cancer treatments that will be used
- How long and how often you will get treatments
- Where you will go to get these treatments
- Whether you will receive inpatient or outpatient treatments
- What to do if you have pain or new changes to your body
- Special instructions for you or others about treatments
- Information about over-the-counter medications or supplements you are taking
A treatment care plan should also include information about how to manage care at home. You can also ask for a list of resources to get help with certain issues such as insurance, finances or emotional support.
If you will have chemotherapy, ask your provider to give you a “chemotherapy road map.” This includes a calendar to keep track of the medication dosages you are given and when you need the next cycle of treatment.
Find out when and how your health care team will decide whether the treatment is working. Talk with your provider if you think a treatment care plan change may be needed. It is possible to do this even while you are in treatment. It may take some time to identify other options that might work better for you.
Choosing the best cancer treatment is very important. You have the right to request opinions from other medical experts. Let your health care provider know if you think this is something you want to do. Taking part in the treatment planning process can empower you. There may also be greater peace of mind because you understand and have a role in what is happening.