What to Bring With to Health Care Visits for Cancer

Five Items You Need to Carry to Oncology Visits

female physician with patient
What do You Need to Bring to Your Oncology Visits?. Istockphoto.com/Stock Photo©undrey

What information do you need to bring with you to make sure your oncology visits flow smoothly? Make sure to check out these tips to avoid delays and frustration.

Your Oncology Visits

When visiting a physician to discuss your cancer diagnosis and treatment, there are few things more frustrating than to discover she doesn't have a copy of any of your medical records. Missing records is responsible for far too many delays in diagnosis and treatment while repeating lost or missing tests results in extra and unnecessary costs.

Even when records are present initially, patients often race around town gathering information before getting a second opinion.

Items to carry with to avoid this frustration include:

Copies of Medical Records

These should include all records leading up to diagnosis and beyond. Ask for records at each visit, and if they are not yet available ask to have them mailed to you. Keep all records in a single file that is readily accessible. Ask for a copy of your last complete physical to include as well. It may seem unnecessary to keep your own medical records, especially if your oncologist (and any other physicians you see) have access to your electronic medical record.

This becomes important not only so that you have a readily available copy, but so that you can review your records and ask for corrections on any errors. With medical errors now considered the third leading cause of death in the United States, this simple measure to reduce the possibility of error is a good investment of your time and persistence.

Blood Tests

When you see any physician, ask to receive copies of any laboratory tests that are done - even if you have the same type of tests repeated frequently.  Doctors will want to look at not only the numbers but the change in these numbers over time.

Radiological Studies

Ask to receive a report on any radiological studies you have done, including chest x-rays, bone scans, CT scans, MRI's, and PET scans.

When you see a new doctor she will want not just the written report, but a copy of the scan which she can review herself.  Your clinic may provide you with a CD of the films to carry with you, and some centers are able to digitally send scans to the next doctor you will be seeing.

An Up-To-Date List of All Medications, Vitamins, and Nutritional Supplements

It is best to bring not only a list of your current medications but the actual prescription bottles. This should include all prescription medications, non-prescriptions medications (over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol) and any nutritional or herbal supplements you are using.
It is important to note that while many of these supplements are marketed as "natural," vitamin and mineral supplements may interfere with chemotherapy.

A Thorough Past Medical History

When choosing treatments for cancer there are often several choices and most of these choices come with side effects. Being familiar with your entire medical history may help your doctor know which medications you may be more likely to tolerate.

For example, if you have a history of kidney problems she may elect to prescribe a drug which is metabolized by the liver instead of the kidneys.

Your Family History

Ideally, everyone should complete a family history form to share with his or her physician. While lung cancer does not have a strong genetic predisposition, certain family tendencies could make some therapies more or less desirable.

Being Your Own Advocate in Your Cancer Care

Gathering and keeping copies of your medical records is only one aspect of being your own advocate in your cancer care. We are learning that doing so not only reduces your risk of medical errors and helps you understand your treatment, but being your own advocate in your cancer care could play a role in your outcome as well.

Planning Your Oncology Visits

We spend a lot of time planning for minor events in our lives, but how many people make a conscious effort to plan ahead for oncology visits? At the same time, it's surprising how often people forget to ask questions - even those that had been on the forefront of their minds in the days or weeks before an appointment. Before continuing on, make sure to check out this information on planning your oncology visits so that your questions are answered and you can move forward feeling empowered in your cancer care.

Sources:

American Society of Clinical Oncology. Understanding Electronic Medical Records. Updated 07/2015. http://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/managing-your-care/understanding-electronic-medical-records

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