Making the most of a doctor's appointment

Below are some tips on how to make the most of a doctor’s appointment.

Before the visit

  • Write a list of all the questions you both have so you don’t forget them during the actual appointment. You can call Cancer Council 13 11 20 if you need information or help working out the questions to ask, or see Cancer Council’s question checklists.
  • Work out your most pressing questions as time may be limited. Ask for a longer appointment if you have a lot of questions.
  • Do some research, starting with Cancer Council’s information booklets or your local Cancer Council website, so you can ask informed questions. For more information sources, see Support and information.
  • Make a list of all the medicines being taken, including any vitamin supplements and complementary therapies. Note the dose and any side effects.
  • Check with the doctor’s receptionist about what you need to bring, e.g. test results, scans, blood tests.
  • Record any recent changes in the person’s condition or symptoms so you can tell the doctor about them.

During the visit

  • Take notes or ask the doctor if you can record the discussion (many mobile phones have a recording function).
  • Write down any specific instructions.
  • Check who to contact if you are worried about any changes and ask for an after-hours number.
  • Clarify anything you don’t understand.
  • Ask the doctor if they can give you printed material or tell you where to find more information, or call Cancer Council 13 11 20.
  • Look over the questions you brought along to check that they have all been answered.

After the visit

  • Review your notes.
  • Record the next appointment in a diary or calendar.
  • Call the doctor for test results, if appropriate.
  • Contact the doctor about changes in the condition or symptoms.
  • Discuss the visit with the person you are caring for.
The person you are caring for needs to give written consent for the treatment team to talk with you about their care. This consent and your contact details should be formally recorded in their case file.

Listen to podcasts on Cancer Affects the Carer Too and How to Help Someone with Cancer

This information was last reviewed in September 2017
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