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Cancer Support: Being an Active Patient

Table of Contents


Doctors are experts on medical care. But you are the expert on yourself and your life. That's why it's important to be an active patient. When you're actively involved in decisions about your care, you can be sure that your choices reflect your values and beliefs.

Here are some ways to become more active and involved in your care.

What questions do people ask?

Here are some questions that people with cancer often ask. You may have other questions that are important to you. It's a good idea to write down the questions you want to ask and take them to your doctor visits. And it can help to have a friend or family member there to listen, take notes, and support you.

Questions about cancer.
  • What do I need to know about my cancer?
  • Can this kind of cancer be inherited? Should I have genetic testing?
  • Where can I get more information about my type of cancer?
Questions about treatment.
  • What are my treatment choices? Which do you think would be best for me?
  • What are the most common side effects of each treatment? What are the risks?
  • How long will treatment take? How much will it cost?
  • How soon do I need to make a decision about treatment?
  • What can I expect after treatment?
Other questions.
  • Are there any lifestyle changes you'd advise me to make?
  • Can you help me find a doctor to give me a second opinion?
  • How can I get in touch with you if I have more questions?

How do you find trustworthy information?

Most people search the Internet for information about cancer. That can be confusing because some online information isn't true or isn't based on sound medical research. But there are ways to find trustworthy information.

Ask your doctors

Ask your doctors to suggest good sources. They may have information for you, or they may be able to recommend trustworthy websites. And many hospitals have medical libraries that are open to the public.

Look for websites you can trust

A number of national organizations that are in the business of helping people with cancer have websites you can trust. The major ones include:

The National Cancer Institute (NCI).

This government agency provides up-to-date information about cancer and its prevention, detection, and treatment. You can also contact trained staff with questions. Spanish-speaking staff members are available. Visit the website to contact the NCI.

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN).

This group publishes NCCN Guidelines for Patients on many common types of cancer. These easy-to-read resources can help you make informed choices about your care. Visit the website for information about NCCN.

What can you do to get your test results?

Waiting for a test result that could change your life may be one of the hardest things about cancer treatment.

Most doctors, labs, and hospitals are busy, and you may not want to bother them. But medical tests can provide information that's important to your future. And you have a right to know your results.

Here are some tips for following up on tests.

Credits for Cancer Support: Being an Active Patient

Current as of: March 1, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Elizabeth T. Russo MD - Internal Medicine

Note: The "printer friendly" document will not contain all the information available in the online document. Some information (e.g. cross-references to other topics, definitions or medical illustrations) is only available in the online version.

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.