Expert Advice: Communicating Side Effects and Symptoms to Your Doctor

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Sometimes patients are hesitant to share any issues they are experiencing with their doctor.  Dr. John Burke from Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers shares advice on why it’s important to communicate these problems to your doctor and tips for doing so.  Social worker Anh Lai-O'Connell weighs in about how patients and family members can play a role in connecting and sharing with healthcare providers.

Sponsored by the Patient Empowerment Network through educational grants from Onyx Pharmaceuticals and Millennium: The Takeda Oncology Company.  

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Transcript

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

Jeff Folloder:

Dr. Burke, how do you want your patients to communicate to you that something's going wrong?

Dr. Burke:            

I would say as straightforwardly as possible, and I—I think, honestly, I know reality is that patients come in to me and put on a brave face, and so that pain level that might really be a seven, they rate it to me as a three.  And so, I—I think that's reality of how people interact with their physicians and it's important to—for me, to get supplemental information from the caregivers and the love ones to—to use that information to find out what's really going on and—and how they're feeling.

Jeff Folloder:     

So, Anh, this is often where you come into play.  You have to put together a team, if you will, so that we can open up the avenues of communication.  Tell us a little bit about how that works.

Anh Lai-O'Connell:          

Sure.  So, by the time that I get to meet with patients and families, and hear their stories, I get, maybe, the unedited version that the physician might get.  And at that point, I encourage patients and families to really advocate for themselves.  The reason why your healthcare team is there is because of you in the first place.

And so, what—what helps a lot of families is to become very organized and literally organized with a binder.  I actually met somebody last week who has a binder, keeps a log of how they're feeling from day to day—very specific description, so that when you finally get to the doctor and—and you get however short span of time to talk to them and figure out another plan, let them know how you're really feeling.  Be very descriptive instead of great or fine.  Really find the words that describe the specific moment when you're feeling like crap or that your brain is not—our memory is not there.  You're not able to get out of bed or—very specific things.

And logs are a great way to do that, keeping everything together in a binder.  And as questions come up in between your visits, to write them down in that log so that you're ready to communicate and be proactive in that appointment with your physician.  And at that point, it becomes really empowering to be a part of that instead of, maybe, feeling like a subject.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

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Page last updated on January 26, 2016