Dr. Elizabeth Bowhay-Carnes discusses essential questions to ask your physician when discussing treatment during an appointment, including the need to plan and educate yourself about your options.
Dr. Elizabeth Bowhay–Carnes is Director of the Adult Non-Malignant Hematology Program and Co-Director of the Adolescent/Young Adult Oncology Program at Mays Cancer Center, home to UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center. More about this expert.
As a cancer doctor working with patients and families day-to-day, I notice that both physicians and patients are scared to talk about worst-case-scenarios.
I’m guilty of this, and I know a lot of my colleagues, we go through our visit with patients, outlining treatment plans and with the assumption that everything is going to go perfectly as planned, and there’s not going to be any surprises. I think it’s very important that patients and family, friends, sit down with their treating physician and ask them directly, “What happens if things do not go as planned?” Other ways to word this would be, “What if this particular step in treatment does not work? What are some complications that are possibilities,” and if the treatment does not work or a patient has complications, everybody needs to ask, and at least be on the lookout for, “What are the next steps? What are different options?”
It’s always important to hope for the best, plan for the best, but it’s important for a patient and family to be educated about different possibilities and what if things do not go as planned.