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Cancer Patients Should Ask Doctors to Use Simple Terms
Date:9/28/2011

y be told the risk of a certain side effect occurring is 7 percent. But if you didn't take the drug, is there a chance you'd still experience that side effect? Patients should remember to ask what the additional, or incremental, risk of a treatment is so they can make better decisions.
  • Take notes. The amount of information given to cancer patients can be overwhelming. Either write it down, or at the end of a discussion, ask your doctor for a written summary of the risks and benefits. That way you can go home, have time to digest the information and make your decision.
  • Don't pay too much attention to averages. Research that estimates the risk of getting a certain disease is often based on large groups of people, or populations, such as "people over 65 years old." But your individual risk may be lower or higher than the average risk depending on your genes, overall health, other conditions you may have, smoking status, etc. Your personal risk is what matters most, not the average risk.
  • In some cases, there may be many different treatment options, but only a few may be relevant. Patients should ask their doctor to discuss options most pertinent to their individual situation.
  • More information

    The American Cancer Society has more about cancer treatments and side effects.

    -- Robert Preidt

    SOURCE: University of Michigan Health Sciences, news release, Sept. 20, 2011


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