How to talk to your doctor about new treatment options

doctor_patientPicture 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?