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Talking to your doctor

By Dustin, diagnosed in 2017


Finding out that you have ALK+ NSCLC can be overwhelming. There are so many emotions to process, including the shock from a diagnosis that has upended your life, that it can be difficult to focus and ask your doctor all of the questions bouncing around your mind. Here are some tips for making sure you get the most out of your first visits with your doctor:

  • Before your visit, make a list of questions you would like to have answered. Once your doctor starts answering questions and you start trying to sort through their responses, it can be easy to forget what you wanted to ask before your visit. Having a written list will help to ensure you don't miss any key questions.
  • Don't hesitate to ask your doctor to explain medical terminology. Doctors can sometimes forget that as new patients, we may not understand medical terms or acronyms that they use on a daily basis. There are no dumb questions when it comes to making sure you understand your illness and your doctor should be happy to explain everything in layman's terms.
  • Bring a supportive friend or family member. Having someone with you at your first doctor visits is helpful for emotional support, but can also help in other ways. Having another set of ears will help you confirm that you understood the doctor's answers after the visit, and your family member or friend can also help in making sure you don't forget any questions. 
  • Ask about the doctor's future treatment plans. At diagnosis, your doctor will discuss your initial treatment with you. But what happens if the initial treatment doesn't work or stops working? Knowing that my doctor already has contingency plans in place gives me the peace and security to sleep better at night.
  • Make sure you understand your treatment. One of the most important things to come out of your first doctor visits is making sure that you understand your treatment. For many of us, our first treatment will be a targeted therapy drug. Here are some particular questions that should be addressed:       
    • What is the proper dosage? How many pills a day should I be taking and at what time of day?
    • Should I be taking my medicine with food? If so, are some foods better than others? Are there any foods that should be avoided altogether?
    • What types of side effects should I anticipate? When is a side effect normal and when should I contact a doctor?
    • Does my medication interact badly with any other medications or supplements that I may consider taking?