Promoting Informed Decision-Making by Survivors

Promoting Informed Decision-Making by Survivors

Evaluating Information

Health information can be extremely useful, and can empower people to make important health decisions, but it can also be confusing.

Survivors seek out information for many reasons: To understand how their therapy works, fight fatigue, avoid infections, and overcome other side effects of treatment. Survivors should consider their primary motivations in seeking out choices that are driven by the cancer experience. Just because a particular action has been suggested in a written source or otherwise recommended does not mean that it is a good choice for the individual survivor.

Survivors must assess their sources of information and consider whether they are reasonable in view of their own lifestyles and objectives.

It is important to recognize that the search for information can be confusing, even when credible sources of information are found. At times, even reputable sources of information provide conflicting information.

Such differences of opinion arise when there is no solid evidence regarding the best way to treat a particular condition. In these cases, survivors should consult with a number of different health care providers to decide their best course of treatment.

They should especially seek out information to help formulate decisions on the use of supplements or complementary and alternative therapies, then communicate any such decisions with members of the health care team. This is important so that the team can be aware of any potential interactions that may interfere with treatment.

Survivor-Provider Communication

Many cancer survivors are reluctant or unable to describe their feelings and concerns about their experience with family members, friends, and their health care providers. This difficulty often stems from not being able to articulate such a complex experience with words.

Health care providers are also confronted with information that can be confusing. Because there are so many unanswered questions and because the science of nutrition in cancer survivors is so limited, health care providers can sometimes appear to be impatient with questions. This can cause cancer survivors either to avoid addressing their nutritional concerns with their providers, or to seek answers only from sources of questionable credibility.

Health care providers should encourage questions and should provide referrals to other professionals, such as physicians, registered nurses, registered dietitians, social workers, physical therapists, or researchers, when appropriate.

To enhance candid communication, survivors should be encouraged to:

Do their own research prior to appointments, using unbiased and trustworthy printed and electronic information from sources such as voluntary health organizations; accredited cancer centers; medical, nursing, and dietitian professional organizations; and government agencies.

Write questions down before appointments.

Bring relevant reading materials to appointments.

Explain their motivation for asking certain questions.

Have someone accompany them to appointments to help make sure that questions are clearly asked and fully answered.

Making Informed Choices

Informed choice ensures that survivors are comfortable with the decisions that have been made, and provides the rationale for understanding and support from others regarding these decisions. Armed with good information, survivors can fully assess whether or not any particular choice will assist in meeting their objectives. The most important feature of making informed choices is to periodically reassess and update both the information and one’s personal objectives, balancing them realistically against changing health needs through the phases of cancer survivorship.

Remember we are NOT Doctors and have NO medical training.

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