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The Voice of People With Breast Cancer


Our Voices Blog

Tips to Prepare for Your Medical Appointment

Preparing for a specialized medical appointment can be a daunting task for some. You may encounter many questions that you would like to address, ask about your possible diagnosis, understand your treatment plan, ask about other options, and so forth. Many patients who have felt content or fulfilled after their appointments are those who were well prepared beforehand. Even though many medical practices will vary in terms of office administration, most will generally have a similar setup. You can download and print this blogpost as a checklist.

What You Can Do to Prepare For Your Medical Appointment:

Before the Appointment

  • Plan for your appointment in advance, start thinking and writing down thoughts and concerns you may have.
  • Highlight your concerns from most important to least important, the majority of the most important questions will likely be answered by the health team.
  • Set up your questions as a checklist so it is easy to cross off as the questions are addressed.
  • Make a list of all the medications you take, this includes prescriptions, non-prescription, vitamins, minerals, topical ointments/treatments, pain relievers, herbal remedies, and natural products. If you are taking any dietary supplements, or protein shakes, these are important to list as well.
    • It is also important to list the dosage of the medications you take. If you are not sure of the dosage, bring your medications with you to the appointment. Most pharmacies will provide you with a printout of all the active medications on file at that location.
  • Make a list of your medical history including other medical conditions, allergies, medication allergies, and relevant family history.
  • Collect and bring all medical reports, copies of scans, film CDs, mammogram reports with you.
  • Create a health binder, use this to collect and organize your notes, medical reports, and resources you are given. Keeping your important documents in one place reassures you will have everything you need for your appointments.
  • Bring contact details of your referring doctor (name, address, telephone number, fax number, or email). Pharmacy contact information is also helpful to bring with you.
  • Are you covered under an insurance plan for medications? Let the health team know, it will be taken into consideration when prescribing and suggesting alternatives. This will also allow the team to give you samples and pharmaceutical rebates if they are available, don’t be shy to ask for samples.
  • Confirm with the clinic if you can bring a support person with you to the appointment. Having two people at the appointment will help in taking notes and remembering points from the discussion. Given the ongoing pandemic, you may not be able to bring someone with you but ask if you can call a support person and put them on speakerphone or have them on a videoconferencing for your appointment. This will also be beneficial if you do not have a support person that can physically attend the appointment.
  • If English is not your first language and there is no one to bring with you to the appointment, ask about interpreter services. Plan for this service in advance, as it may take time to book for an interpreter. Due to the pandemic, your interpreter may join the appointment by speakerphone or video conferencing.
  • Arrive early for the appointment, waiting 15-20 minutes will help ease the tension. This time will also allow you to fill out any required questionnaires in the office. Keep in mind that coming early may require you to wait a little longer to be seen by the doctor, especially if the doctor is behind schedule. Again, given the ongoing pandemic, please call ahead of your appointment to confirm how early you are allowed to arrive for your appointment.

During the Appointment

  • Ask if the health team feels comfortable with you voice recording the discussion during the appointment.
  • Bring a note pad and pen or use your smartphone device to take notes.
  • Don’t feel afraid or shy to ask questions, most doctors appreciate it when you ask questions.
  • Ask the health team if they have any publications, handouts, or recommend resources online.
  • Some medical appointments require you to see another health care professional such as a registered nurse before being seen by the doctor. Take this opportunity to ask questions. The nurse will also provide you with guidance on how your appointment with the doctor will go.
  • During the appointment, clarify with the doctor what the next steps are? When is the next appointment? Are there any prescriptions or laboratory blood test orders?
  • Be honest and share relevant details about your medical history and concerns without feeling embarrassed or fear of being judged. The details you share will help the doctors help you.

Other Resources

Preparing for a Medical Appointment from Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation

Working with your healthcare team from Canadian Cancer Society

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash