Your Cancer Center Team and Communication Tips

Doctor Patient Conference

Moores Cancer Center uses an interdisciplinary team approach, bringing together specialists from all aspects of cancer care. Your team usually includes a physician, a nurse case manager, and a social worker.

The nurse case manager works with your physician to coordinate your healthcare, medication needs, and symptom management. The social worker provides for your psychological, social, emotional, spiritual and practical needs. Other members will join this team when necessary. As a part of UC San Diego, the Cancer Center trains medical students, residents, and fellows, who may also be part of your healthcare team.

Communicating with your team

Open and honest communication with your doctor is the first step in maximizing your quality of care. You may feel stressed and overwhelmed with information and decisions, making it harder to understand complex information and to remember what is said.

Your healthcare team wants to provide you with the best possible medical service and ensure that you understand your diagnosis and treatment, and have the necessary information to make decisions about your care. It is your responsibility to keep them informed about how you are doing, and to ask the questions you need answered, including issues that may be uncomfortable to talk about, such as bladder control, memory loss, sexual function, or other personal concerns.

Tips for communication

  • Write down your questions before each appointment. Make them specific and brief to get the most of your doctor’s limited time. Ask your most important questions first.
  • Write down the answers. This will help you remember your doctor’s responses and directions, and will allow you to review them later. You may also want to audiotape your appointment to listen to later. Always ask if you don’t understand.
  • Whenever possible, bring a friend or family member along. It is always helpful to have the support of another person to help you think of questions and remember the information you hear.
  • Tell your doctor how you prefer medical information to be communicated. For example, do you want all the details or simply a summary?
  • Tell your healthcare team to whom they may give medical information if you are not available and whom you trust to make decisions for you in the event you are not able.

Questions that you may want to ask

  • What is my diagnosis?
  • What is the stage of my cancer and what does that mean?
  • What are my treatment options? Of these, what treatment are you recommending?
  • What are the goals of treatment?
  • What are the benefits and the risks?
  • What symptoms and side effects might I expect, and what are some ways to manage them?
  • How will this impact my daily life?
  • Are there clinical research trials I may be eligible for?
  • Who are the members of my healthcare team and what are their roles?