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Special Book Excerpt From The Take-Charge Patient (Part 3 of 4)

Part III: Find the Right Specialist for You

By Martine Ehrenclou, M.A.

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View Part 2 of 4
View Part 4 of 4

Take Charge Patient
When dealing with a chronic medical condition or serious illness, finding the best doctor for you is very important. Having the right specialist is important not only for your diagnosis and treatment, but also for your hope, faith and journey through the process. It is crucial for your confidence in your treatment. Find a specialist whom you feel very comfortable with. Several doctors suggested that in the case of a serious illness such as cancer, you must be able to talk to your doctor and tell her when you don’t feel comfortable. One doctor suggested looking for “the warm fuzzy feeling” when considering an oncologist.

Chapter 4 of my book contains all the strategies you need to find the best doctor for you. But in addition, you’ll be looking for a physician who helps to instill confidence, hope and a sense of control over what is happening to your body. You will be participating in your medical care as an active team member regarding treatment decisions, medications, and sharing research with your doctor. It is essential for you to feel comfortable asking as many questions as you need to, reporting side effects, discussing possible alternative treatments and much more. Find a doctor who is comfortable with a take-charge patient.

Sample Questions to Ask Your Specialist
If you have a serious illness or chronic medical condition, the questions to ask your doctor are different than if you were seeing a doctor for a less serious medical issue.

You need to formulate questions before you see your specialist. Write down the answers in your medical journal. You’ll want to refer to them later and possibly discuss them with other doctors and loved ones.

Here is a list of suggested questions to ask your specialist. This list is not all-inclusive. Please refer to books on your illness or chronic medical condition to learn about additional questions to ask.

  • What is the stage of my disease?
  • Are the causes of my medical condition known?
  • What are the most successful treatments for my disease?
  • Which doctors have successfully treated this type of disease?
  • Who will be in charge of my treatment?
  • What are the side effects of the treatment?
  • What is the success rate of the treatment?
  • Is there a consensus about what medical treatment is most effective for my condition? According to a health psychologist, having consensus doesn’t mean that a treatment is necessarily the right treatment but that it is statistically more likely to work than others.
  • Are there alternative treatments?

If your doctor has given you a treatment plan, you can ask the following question, “Please help me understand why this is the best treatment for me.”

You can also ask your doctor, “If this were your diagnosis, what would you do next?”