Hearing a new diagnosis for the first time can catch you
What is the name of the disease or condition?
Have your provider write down your diagnosis. You’ll want them to be specific on the disease or condition they have diagnosed. This will help you understand it better, and allow you to research and discuss the diagnosis going forward. Remember, there are many layers in almost any diagnosis and you’ll need to know what is specific to you.
What is the initial treatment plan?
Some treatment plans can include something as simple as lifestyle changes or medication. Others can include testing, treatments, or even surgery. If the diagnosis is not life-threatening and does not need treatment to begin right away, take the time to research your options, including a second opinion.
If a new medication is part of the plan, ask about side effects or interactions with any current medications. Make certain you understand any instructions for taking the medications, and if there are concerns if you were to miss a dose.
Who will be involved with my care?
Most often your primary care provider will manage your care, but at times you may be referred to a specialist. Clarify who will be the point person to manage your care and all those involved in your care team. This could include doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses, technicians, and therapists. It can also include specialists, oncologists, and surgeons. Know who you should reach out if you have questions, concerns, or to clarify treatment plans.
What resources do I have?
You’ll probably have more questions after you leave your appointment. Find out who you can reach out to via phone or email at your provider’s office. There may be support groups that you can reach out to. When researching online, please proceed with caution. There are many websites with misleading information – ask your provider which websites would be the best resource for your diagosis.
When do I follow up next?
Before you leave your appointment, find out the next time you need to follow-up. Weeks? Three months? Six months? Yearly? As needed? Also, find out who to contact with concerns and what signs/symptoms warrant an immediate call to your provider. Know when you should go directly to the nearest hospital.
Take control of your own health and become an expert on your own diagnosis as you stay on top of your care. Knowledge is power, and when given a new diagnosis being to build your knowledge base and navigate your health journey.