How to talk to your doctor about new treatment options
Picture the scenario. You have been diagnosed with cancer, (or some other medical condition)and you are about to meet with your doctor to discuss your treatment options. You have done some research yourself and you have learned about a new treatment for your condition. So armed with this new information, you suggest the treatment as an option to your physician. And you are met with a blank stare or a dismissive answer. Has this ever happened to you?
It happened to me last year on a visit to my endocrinologist when I asked for a particular test to be done and I was refused it. I changed consultants. This test wasn’t life or death, so the decision to change was more to do with my decision that I wasn’t happy with this consultant and their manner, so I changed for one with a personality and style which I was more comfortable with.
Cancer on the other hand is life and death and chopping and changing consultants on the basis of personality is not something I would recommend. I also wouldn’t recommend believing that just because you have done some research on your disease means you know the best way to treat it.
By all means bring your research to the table, become an active participant in your treatment – I am all for that.
But, as Dr Wendy Harpham points out ” you only hurt yourself if you expect your physician to follow your orders.”
Harpham advises if you find a test or treatment that interests you, instead of saying to your physicians, “I’d like to suggest this treatment,” try something along the lines of “This is what I’ve learned about the treatment and why I think it might be useful. What do you think about it in my case?”
“You and your physician are a team with a shared mission: getting you better, if possible. You benefit most when you can depend on and trust your physician’s judgment and expertise in your care.”
I think that is some great advice and it is something that we do well to heed in today’s age of the e-patient. It is certainly advice that I needed to hear. What are your thoughts on the subject?
Hi Marie, you bring up some good points I look at this a little differently. While I agree that we shouldn’t change doctors (I don’t think oncologists are exempted from this) for the sake of minor things, however when the patient doctor relationship is adding so much turmoil that the patient distrusts and has lost confidence in the partnership with the doctors it is time for a change.
This actually happened to me and I did make a change which I am glad I did. I waited until after the initial treatment but just could not go on with the destructive relationship. I wasn’t trying to tell the doctor what to do. I think each of us knows our body better than anyone else and when the body says enough is enough I think we have to listen.
Great comment Luann. I actually thought of you changing your oncologist after I had written this!
My health problem was not cancer but I still find it hard to accept that at a time in my life when I was ill and vulnerable I had to “manage” my responses to doctors to get the help I needed. This made me very frightened.
Thanks for the comment Martine. I would have to agree with you on this one – I had a tough time having my voice heard on many occasions – and the last thing you need when you are ill and vulnerable is having to be fought to be heard!
Hi Marie, As in most situations, I think it’s all in how you say it. If you come cross too pushy or abrasive, your ideas, though valid, might not be as readily listened to. Your suggestion to say, “This is what I’ve learned …” is a good example of how to voice an opinion. Having said that, in the end it is your body and the decisions you make are ultimately yours to make, so if you really do believe in your ideas and are not being heard, it might be time to switch doctors.
I think this has been the concensus of alll the comments on this post and you are right I believe.
Hi Marie, I think this raises a very good point. I’ve tended to go along the line of say something like “I’ve read about … do you think this would be a good idea for me?” or “I’ve read about …, what are your thoughts on this?”. Goes wrong if they haven’t read it, of course, so sometimes I take the information with me.
I think switching is probably the only option if you’ve really lost confidence in someone.
Elizabeth thanks for your advice which is really useful in how to word suggestions to your doctor. I like it a lot!