Cancer and its treatments create many complex needs. These can be medical, emotional, financial, and physical. Challenges such as dealing with chemo side effects and asking questions when you don't know the answers can help make you a stronger person. Learning to be your own advocate can even make getting through chemotherapy (chemo) a better process.

Speaking Up

Find the person on your care team who has the information you need. Ask him or her for help. For instance:

  • Ask your doctor and care team about medical issues (ie, treatment, chemo side effects)
  • Talk to a claims expert at your insurance company about insurance coverage for chemo
  • Address your job-related concerns with your employer or Human Resources contact
  • Ask a financial planner or accountant about chemo and medical care costs

Whenever you have a question, know that it's worth asking. Think through each issue. Write it down and make a note to ask the proper expert. Keep lists of questions you'd like to ask. But if you don't get the answers you need, find out who to ask or where to find the information. And keep asking.

Here's an example that might help. If you feel nauseous during chemo, speak with your nurse. Ask if there are other treatment options that prevent or lessen the nausea. Tell him or her how you're feeling, and ask what can be done to make things better. Of course, your doctor and care team will decide what treatments are right for you. Still, it's good to let everyone know how you are feeling during chemo.

Advocacy Tips

  • Know your rights as a patient
  • Ask for a patient's bill of rights (most hospitals/cancer centers keep them handy)
  • Know that you have a right to be treated fairly
  • Get a sense of yourself as a powerful self-protective person
  • Be patient and express yourself clearly
  • Listen to all answers; sometimes you get other helpful info

You will learn that you are your own best spokesperson. You may also want to bring along a friend who can help explain what you need to others. Some think of chemo as a chance to become personally stronger and more confident.

  • The Chemotherapy and Infection Discussion Guide can help you understand your
    risk of infection

    Infection can be a serious side effect of strong chemo. Find out the factors that affect your risk of infection. Simply answer a few questions, and then print your results to share with your doctor.

    Use the Chemotherapy and Infection Discussion Guide to find out more.