Diagnosed with cancer? Is someone missing from your care team?
Could it be YOU? In today’s patient-centred healthcare, patients have a key role to play in decisions about their treatment at every stage of their cancer care journey
No one likes to think about being diagnosed with cancer. However, the reality is that it will happen to about 230,000 Canadians this year, 90 per cent of them people aged 50 or more. They are among the two in every five Canadians who will get cancer in their lifetime.
Cancer may be one simple word but it is really many very different diseases. Every cancer is as unique as the person who has it. Indeed, the more we learn about different types of cancer, the more we discover how many new treatment options there are.
That’s why one of the most important people to be involved with decisions about your cancer care needs to be you. Through the process of “shareddecision making,” you can play an active role with your healthcare team to make these important decisions. Working together, you can ensure that the care and treatment decisions are right for you, considering your cancer situation and overall health but also your personal values and life goals. A great way to start is by having a conversation with your healthcare team to let them know more about you and what’s important to you. For instance, your goal may be to stay well enough through treatment to play golf, take a vacation, or to attend an important milestone like a wedding.
“As a patient with metastatic cancer, I’ve found it really helpful to repeat my goals to every specialist involved in my care,” said Deb Maskens, patient advocate and co-founder of Kidney Cancer Canada. “Whenever we discuss treatment options, it’s important that we have this conversation again so that together we can choose a path that meets my goals going forward.”
An important first step is to understand as much as you can about your specific situation. Your healthcare team can provide you with the details you need about your diagnosis. Many cancer patients in Canada have access to an online patient portal at their cancer centre. If you don’t have online access to your files, be sure to ask for a printed copy of reports related to your diagnosis. You may also want to get in touch with a patient group that provides resources and support for your type of cancer.
Here are some important aspects you and your healthcare team will want to consider together when making a decision about your care and treatment:
❶ Type and stage of cancer you have: This information is essential to determine which treatment options may be available to you.
❷ Your overall health status: This helps determine what type of treatment might be best for you.
❸ Side effects and risks of treatments: All treatments come with side effects and risks. You will want to consider those that you are prepared to accept and those you would like to avoid.
❹ Quality of life vs. how long you can live: In addition to considering whether a treatment will extend your life and by how much, you will also want to know how a treatment will affect your overall wellbeing and enjoyment of life.
❺ Your priorities, values, beliefs and goals: Before making a decision about your care, consider what is important in your life at this time – your personal priorities, values, beliefs and goals. Share this information with your healthcare team so they can recommend the best treatment and care that meet your needs.