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“Great communication is necessary between patients and their health care team,” says Sahirah Khabeer, a patient resource navigator with the American Cancer Society and the Grady Health System at the Georgia Cancer Center for Excellence. “Patients have to be aware—specifically in the area of cancer—of what their diagnosis is, what the treatment plan is, and what to expect.” Open dialogue between you and your health care team can contribute to your choosing and staying on an appropriate treatment plan and can also affect your quality of life. “I think good communication can improve a patient’s overall experience,” Sahirah says, as providers are better able to help patients who voice their concerns. Though communication during cancer treatment can be challenging, there are steps you can take to keep the dialogue open and ensure that information is received and understood on both sides.
Sahirah recommends asking your team some specific questions before treatment begins:
Tips for Keeping the Conversation Going
Even with questions prepared, you may find it difficult to keep track of the information you need to receive and share. Here are some tips to keep the dialogue open:
For More Help
If your circumstances make good communication particularly challenging, a patient navigator like Sahirah can help you establish and maintain an open dialogue with your health care team. “My role as a patient navigator is to provide direction, resources, and services to all cancer patients as they’re going through their journey,” she says.
In addition to ensuring that all necessary information is shared, a navigator can help you find patient-friendly literature about diagnosis and treatment and make sure you’re receiving needed information in a way that you can understand. A navigator can also connect you with important resources (such as financial, insurance, and medication assistance) and, no less significant, offer caring and compassionate support.
As you enter the treatment process, remember that good communication between you and your health care team can help you achieve the best outcome possible. And remember that there are steps you can take to ensure good communication as well as trained professionals (patient navigators) to help you on your journey.
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