Posted 2 years ago

Advocating for yourself

Navigating a cancer diagnosis can often feel daunting.  There are a variety of unknowns that can lead to increased anxiety about what the future might hold as it relates to treatment.  While your medical team consists of professionals that are expertly trained in their field, YOU are your best advocate. Advocating for yourself throughout the progress is a key component to ensure you are receive quality care in a way that is most meaningful and honoring to you.

  1. Take an Active Role in Your Care

Studies have shown that poor health literacy contributes to poorer health outcomes.  It is important to know who the members of your medical team are, the role they each assume, diagnosis, prognosis, medications you are prescribed and why, treatment plan, etc.  Having a true understanding can also help ensure that you are able to make decisions regarding your medical care in conjunction with your medical team, leading to a reduction in an overall feeling related to a loss of control.

  1. Ask Questions

Don’t be afraid to answer questions.  Nothing is a “stupid” question.  I recommend putting together a list of questions in advance of any appointment that you have, so that you are able to remember when present at your office visit.  Quite often, patients do not write their questions down, which results in their inability to recall their concerns during the time in which they are in front of the doctor.  If you are worried that you might be “taking too much time,” set the expectation with your doctor when they enter the room.  For example, “I have several questions I need answered prior to the end of our visit today” can help prepare your doctor for your questions.  Be sure you write down the answers so that you can reference them later.  If writing the information down doesn’t work for you, ask for permission to record a voice memo that you can play back at a later time.

  1. Ask for Clarification

Don’t be afraid to seek clarification as needed.  Whether it is regarding to how to take pre-medication for chemotherapy, why a scan has been ordered, etc., knowing exactly what you need to be doing and when is an integral part of your care.  Re-phrasing information you have been provided to check for understanding can be helpful.  For example, “I want to be sure I am understanding correctly….” This will allow your medical team the opportunity to confirm that you have the correct information and/or correct any misunderstandings that you might have.

  1. Requesting a Nurse Case Manager through your Insurance Provider

Most insurance companies have Nurse Case Managers (RN CM) that work behind the scenes to help in the processing of prior authorizations, etc.  Contacting your insurance company to request that a RN CM be assigned can be helpful as it can reduce the amount of time that you might have to spend on the phone trying to assist with getting an authorization if needed.  Be sure you receive their name, phone number, and email address so that you can better communicate with them should you have any needs that arise.

  1. Educate Yourself about Available Resources

Knowledge is power!  Knowing the resources and supports that are available to you can help prevent a potential crisis.  Ironwood has two Social Workers that are able to assist by providing information regarding a plethora of resources.  Become familiar with those who can assist with advocating on your behalf.  There are also several diagnosis specific organizations such as the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society that can offer additional resources and supports.

Lastly, remember that you are not alone in this journey.  If you feel you need additional supports, please reach out to Supportive Care Services: 480-314-6660.