Making Informed Decisions About Treatment

Kathleen Engel
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When you have metastatic cancer, you'll be faced with many emotions and even more information. Here's how to make the decisions about your treatment less daunting.

At your exam

  • Put the focus on clarity. Your doctor will present the treatment options that are most relevant to you. If you don't understand something, simply say, "I don't understand." If you're still uncertain, repeat the information in your own words. If you think looking at scans or X-rays will help, say, "Please show me on my scan…"

  • Don't compare your case to other cases. No two cases of cancer are the same. Another person with the same diagnosis may have an entirely different treatment plan.

  • Give each option equal time. Studies show the first and last things you hear will be the things you remember most. So take notes (or have a friend come along and do it for you) during your visit. When you get home, review each option thoroughly.

After your visit
Ask yourself:

  • Do I feel comfortable with my doctor? You should feel that your doctor is both competent and caring.

  • Do I have all the info I need? If you are having trouble making a decision, odds are you don't. Don't be afraid to seek a second opinion.

  • What matters most to me? Make sure you understand the goal of a particular therapy. Is it to prolong your life? Ease pain? Will you be able to tolerate the side effects?

  • How much do I want to know—or be involved? Maybe you'd rather not hear every detail or you prefer to entrust treatment decisions to your doctor or a loved one. Do what feels comfortable. You can always change your mind later.

Worried about making the wrong decision? Remember that your decisions are not carved in stone. You can change your mind if you feel uncomfortable with any aspect of your treatment.

April 2013