It is important for you to feel comfortable talking with the members of your health care team. You may meet some members of your team only once or twice, such as in the blood lab or at a medical imaging appointment. You may end up knowing others for many years, such as your doctor (oncologist) or clinic nurses.
Either way, these people are involved in your health care at a time when you are facing cancer. Being able to communicate with them is a very important part of your care.
When you are diagnosed with cancer, you may not know much about the disease or treatment, or about the people who work in cancer-related health and community centres. There are lots of questions and lots of information that need to be shared between you and your health care team. You need to know the details of the type of cancer you have, what your future holds, treatment options, financial considerations,
support services, community resources and more. Your health care team needs to know things like your medical history, how you’re feeling, what support you need and more.
If you feel anxious and overwhelmed, it can be difficult to think about how to communicate with your health care team to ensure you get the answers you need and that they get the information they require to treat you properly. But you and your team have the same goal: to treat your cancer as effectively as possible. It is helpful to remember this if you are feeling intimidated in the hospital environment.
Clinics can get busy and people can be stressed, but you’ve been building successful relationships all your life and you can do it now too. You already have lots of skills to help you get the care you need. Think about what works in other areas of your life: sometimes a smile or a kind word can make all the difference in making a connection with someone you’ve just met or don’t see frequently.
Other times you may need to stand up for yourself if you feel you’re not getting all the facts that are important to you. If you don’t feel that you have enough energy to do that, consider asking a friend or family member to help you get what you need.
The clinic and hospital environments can sometimes be intimidating. If you feel unable to express yourself, remember that your health care team wants to give you whatever help and support you need. All you need to do is ask.
To make communication easier:
Be yourself! Your own unique way of connecting with others will help you communicate with your team.
Establish a connection based on a common interest. This will help you relax and make you feel comfortable.
Be as specific as possible when asking questions. Keep asking until you get the answer you need.
Be open and honest about what you are experiencing so that you can be treated properly and get the support you need.
Enjoy the relationships that can develop between you and members of your team.
Learn how to prepare for your first appointment »
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Tips for When You Call the Hospital
Have your health card (OHIP card) ready when you call the hospital or your clinic.
- If your call is answered by an answering machine, leave your health card (OHIP card) number, name, daytime telephone number and your question.
- Call the appointment hotline if you need to reschedule your appointment.
- Appointment Hotline: 416 946 2938
- Contact your doctor’s office for the following concerns:
- Letter or form completion, documentation, fax to family doctor
- Referral appointments to specialists
- Contact your nurse(s) if there is a change in your health or if you have questions regarding your plan of care
On weekends and after hours:
- For medical concerns, call Princess Margaret Cancer Centre at 416 946 2000 and ask for the doctor on call, or call your family doctor’s office.
- For emergencies, go to your local hospital emergency department or to the emergency department at
Toronto General Hospital or
Toronto Western Hospital. Be sure to tell the emergency staff that your cancer is being treated at Princess Margaret.