Could you be better prepared for your prostate cancer appointment? Prostate cancer specialist, Dr. Alicia Morgans explains what pre-appointment tasks and helpful tools can help ensure patients get the most out of their appointments.
Dr. Alicia Morgans is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University.
Dr. Alicia Morgans:
There’s not really a question that I think is missed in most appointments when I talk to men with prostate cancer, but there are many men who have a burning question, whatever it may be, and they forget to ask it when we’re in that clinical encounter.
And the advice I would have is it’s really important if you think of it as a question that’s really important to you or even just a fleeting thought, to consider keeping a notebook where you can write it down to remember what that question is. Because if you bring the notebook, even that fleeting thought that you may never think of again is something that you’ve got written down, and you can open that notebook, and you can say, “Hey, I thought this may be a silly question, but what do you think?” And I’m sure that your doctor will answer it.
Questions about “How long do I have?” or “What can I expect?” or “How is this going to end?” or “Where is this going to go?” – these are sometimes questions that are really hard to answer. But even those questions, if that’s what you’re thinking about all the time, are going to be important to at least discuss with your doctor, whether you get a concrete answer or not. That may be an ongoing conversation that you have. But if you trust your doctor, you’ll be able to ask whatever it is that you need and not feel like it’s a silly question, because there really isn’t a silly question.
My best recommendation for patients to think about as they’re preparing for their physician visit is to get an advocate; get somebody to come in with you. And if that individual can’t come in with you, perhaps that individual can be on a cell phone or on FaceTime or engaged in that visit in some way, either in person or virtually.
And to take notes or to ask for things to be printed out that explain what you discussed at your visit, because it is very challenging to take in everything that is discussed in those physician visits and memorize everything when there’s really so much going on in many cases. So, having another set of eyes and ears and having a notebook piece of paper or a printout that really catalogs what was discussed can be really, really helpful in preparing for a visit.
And the other thing is to maybe always end with “Is there anything that I didn’t ask that I should?” or “Is there anything else that I need to know?” And sometimes that will prompt the doctor to say, “Yeah, I got through this whole thing, but I meant to mention this, and I forgot.” So, always leaving that door open in case there’s anything else the doctor needs to mention, and sometimes they just need a little prompt at the end. But I think the advocate’s probably the most important part.