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Tips for getting the best out of conversations with your doctor
Last reviewed: 24 March 2022
Practical tips for talking with with your healthcare team
Last reviewed: 24 March 2022
Talking to healthcare professionals - Maggie's Centres
During cancer and its treatment, you'll have many conversations with the teams caring for you. It helps you and the healthcare professionals work together so that you can have the best possible care.
The information on this page will help you take an active part in conversations with healthcare professionals
Talking with members of your healthcare team is an important part of your care. However, time with doctors, nurses and other health care professionals can sometimes feel limited.
Many people with cancer find they are given lots of information around the time of diagnosis. At a stressful time, it can be difficult to remember it all.
Healthcare professionals may use words that you are not familiar with, particularly around cancer care. It can feel like there is a whole new vocabulary to learn.
The following tips will help you to get more out of your time with your GP or hospital staff.
Check the time, date and place of the appointment and the names of the health care professionals you are due to see.
At the appointment
Sometimes everything seems clear at the appointment, but when you get home it can seem confusing or you may think of other information or questions.
If you have any questions you would like answered before your next hospital appointment, your GP, hospital doctor, or specialist nurse should be able to help.
You can also drop into Maggie’s to talk things over with our professional teams and other centre visitors.
After a hospital appointment your hospital doctor will usually write a letter to your GP explaining what has happened at the appointment and any treatment that is planned.
A copy of this letter may automatically be posted to you for your records .
The letters can be a useful opportunity to make sure there is an accurate record of your care. However, sometimes they may be written with confusing medical language or abbreviations. Occasionally, the information may be upsetting, or difficult to understand.
If you have questions you can talk with your GP or phone the hospital to help make things clearer.
Maggie's cancer support specialists can also go through the letter with you, to help clarify the information you've been given. It can help formulate any questions you may have.
By law everyone working in the NHS must keep your records confidential. Information will not usually be given to your family or carers without your agreement.
You may be caring for someone with cancer. Healthcare professionals are not able to give information about that person without getting their permission. The person with cancer is usually asked if it is OK to discuss information with you.
Even if you manage well day-to-day, if English is not your first language then talking about medical matters can be a challenge.
Friends/family can help but they may not translate things accurately for fear of upsetting or worrying you.
Sometimes they they may have difficulty understanding the medical terms involved.
Let the hospital know in advance of the appointment and they should be able to arrange for an interpreter who is proficient in medical language.
Talk with others about what you are experiencing. It can help to hear that what you’re feeling is not unusual, and help you feel less alone.
Call into your local Maggie’s to talk to our professional teams and connect with others in a similar position to yourself.
Last review: Mar 2022 | Next review: Mar 2023