According to the CDC, 650,000 cancer patients receive chemotherapy at outpatient clinics each year. Some have to go through different types of treatment along the way. Others need in-home care or prescription medications. Some might need more than the standard when it comes to rounds of chemo.
Whatever the case, when you’re a cancer patient, you’re more than a number. There is no “cookie-cutter” way of doing things, which is why it’s important to know your rights and stand up for them throughout the treatment process.
It’s understandable to feel nervous and even overwhelmed by a cancer diagnosis. But, if you choose to take charge of your rights and be an empowered patient, you’ll be more comfortable and encouraged throughout treatment. Let’s take a look at a few of those rights and how you can navigate through them to stay safe and informed.
The Right to Informed Consent
Information is your best friend as a cancer patient. That’s why it’s so important to work with a team of medical professionals you trust. With that, you have the right to informed consent about any suggested treatment option. The basics of informed consent include:
- Explaining information so you can make a decision
- Your ability to make a decision
- Your understanding of the information
- Your voluntary decisions about treatment
Nearly every scenario throughout your treatment process should require informed consent. Everything from surgeries to advanced medical testing should be thoroughly discussed before your healthcare provider does anything.
Not only will informed consent make you more comfortable with procedures, but it can also help to promote your safety. You have the right to feel safe as a patient. If there is a procedure you’re not comfortable with, it’s your choice to say no. Alternatively, you can ask for more information from your doctor. Don’t be afraid to participate in major decisions about your care. This is your life, after all.
Because of the constant improvements in healthcare and technology, you might end up being okay with a procedure that you were hesitant about. Give your provider the chance to explain those advancements to you by questioning things when you’re uncomfortable.
The Right to Privacy
Cancer can often feel like a very public thing. Families and friends regularly get involved. Some people even make groups on social media to show support throughout treatment. Those are great ways to feel surrounded by love and to gather strength from others.
But, not everything about your treatment should be public.
Thanks to the HIPAA act of 1996, you have the right to obtain your medical records. You also have the right to the privacy of those records. It’s up to you who can view them and who can obtain them (and for what purposes). Improper access can cause serious consequences. As a patient, it’s important to know who can legally view your records and who can’t.
Keep in mind that most medical records include everything from doctors’ notes to medical test results. Knowing who can see them and what they can be used for can offer you peace of mind and let you know they aren’t just being passed around to everyone for no reason.
The Right to Clear Information
Perhaps the most important and impactful right you have as a cancer patient is the right to clear and concise information. The other two rights listed here can easily fall under the umbrella of this one. Without being educated on every last detail of your treatment, you could go into it with fear, confusion, or without 100% certainty that it’s what you want.
Informed consent covers some of that. Your doctors should explain to you what you can expect from each step of treatment. But, clear information goes beyond the treatment itself.
You also have a right to know the details of every service and what it will cost. If you’re someone without insurance or if your plan won’t cover it, you might consider opting for something else. Unfortunately, medical care in this country isn’t currently an inherent right. That means there are some gaps in financial support that can impact your treatment. Some government assistance programs can help you fill in those gaps. For example, Medicare Part A covers:
- Inpatient care
- Skilled nursing care
- Hospice care
- Home services
Medicare Part B can also cover many of the prescription drugs often associated with clear treatment. If you happen to need multiple MRIs during your treatment, Medicare can also help as long as you’re in a hospital that accepts it. These are things to speak with your doctor about ahead of time. While your financial situation shouldn’t have to determine your treatment, it might come down to that for some people.
Cancer is a difficult thing to deal with, but it becomes even harder when you don’t fight for your rights. Keep these rights in mind as you navigate through treatment. Knowing what you deserve can help you to feel more empowered in a time where things might seem uncertain and overwhelming.
Beau Peters is a creative professional with a lifetime of experience in service and care. As a manager, he’s learned a slew of tricks of the trade that he enjoys sharing with others who have the same passion and dedication that he brings to his work. When he is not writing, he enjoys reading and trying new things.