Dr. Keith Ayrons

QUESTION: What is the best way to make decisions about my cancer treatment and have good communication with my doctor?

A good patient doctor relationship is more of a partnership. You and your doctor should work as a team to manage your cancer diagnosis.

After a diagnosis of cancer, there are a number of decisions to make about treatments, further testing, and possibly seeing other specialists. Some of these decisions can be very difficult and are then made even more complicated by feelings of unfamiliar words, anxieties and a sense of urgency. However, in almost every situation it is important to take the time to ask questions, research your options, and talk with a trusted family member or friend. Your doctor wants you to be comfortable with and understand your treatment decision so that you are more likely to stick to the treatment plan.

Here are some simple steps that you may want to take to start the decision making process:

Understand your diagnosis and know your options. Each person’s treatment plan depends on the type and stage of the cancer (where the cancer started, if it has spread and how it is affecting other parts of the body). For this reason it is important to understand as much as you can about your specific diagnosis. Bring someone with you to the appointment that can take notes for you and listen when you may be feeling “information overload”. Write down the questions that you have so you can be sure to have them all answered before you leave the office. Understand what the differences are between all of the treatment options. This will help you visualize and feel confident in the chosen plan. Ask the doctor if they have any written materials that may help you or if they recommend a website for you to look at to get further information.

Understand the goals of treatment. Different treatment options may have different goals. Some treatments may be too slow, stop or eliminate the cancer, while others may be to manage symptoms and side effects. It is important to know what your doctor expects your treatment goals to be.

Know the possible side effects of treatment and how to manage them. Cancer and cancer treatment can often cause side effects. Ask your doctor about the potential side effects and how they can be managed. Mission Hope has treatment nurses, nurse navigators, dieticians, cancer exercise trainers and many free programs to help you with potential side effects. Sometimes being proactive helps to keep the side effects from ever happening.

Finally, talk to your family members or trusted friends. Having the people you love around you and supporting you during treatment can make all the difference in the world. You want positive people around you who also understand your goals of treatment and can help you successfully implement your plan!

You are lucky to live in a community where there is help available. Marian Cancer Care at Mission Hope Cancer Center provides, at no charge, counseling for cancer patients and their families, support groups, educational lectures and services to our Central Coast community. They offer help daily for the stress felt by those going through cancer treatment and their caregivers. You will find a daily calendar full of classes which include Support Groups, Mindfulness Classes, Yoga, Golf, Strength Training, Aquatic Therapy and Energy Balancing. We also have a Patient Advocate and Nurse Navigators available to help people assess their stress levels and make the needed referrals for counseling or further stress management. To learn more about our classes or to sign up for our newsletter, please call 805-219-HOPE (4673).

HAVE A QUESTION? This weekly column produced by Marian Cancer Care invites you to submit your questions to “Your Cancer Answers” at the following email address: mariancancercare@dignityhealth.org

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Dr. Keith Ayrons is Board Certified and Fellowship trained in Medical Oncology and Hematology. As an associate of Central Coast Medical Oncology located in Santa Maria at Mission Hope Cancer Center, he treats people with cancer and hematology disorders. Dr. Ayrons also serves as a member of the Marian Regional Medical Center’s and Arroyo Grande Community Hospital’s specialized oncology staff. He can be reached at 805-349-9393.