Communication works best when a partnership develops between you, your family and your healthcare team. Ask questions and share your feelings so that your healthcare team can give you the information you need. When all parties speak clearly and listen to one another, a helpful partnership can grow.
If ovarian cancer is suspected, you need to seek out a gynecologic oncologist—the only gynecologic cancer specialist with the training to perform the complex surgery that ovarian cancer may require. Survival is improved when the initial ovarian cancer surgery is performed by a gynecologic oncologist, according to a research study at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario
Your Treatment Team
It is important that your doctor be skilled in treating ovarian cancer. Ask to be referred to a gynecological oncologist.
- Gynecological Oncologist - the only board-certified sub specialist with training and expertise in all aspects of diagnosing and treating ovarian cancer. Not all surgeons and gynecologists have the skill and experience to handle a complex situation if they encounter a malignancy. To find the Gynecological Oncologist closest to your location within Canada, go to: http://www.g-o-c.org/en/resources/members-directory.aspx.
- Medical Oncologist - a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis of cancer and the use of chemotherapy to treat cancer. Your medical oncologist determines what drugs will be part of your treatment and monitors the effects of these drugs.
- Primary Nurse - a registered nurse with special skills in providing you with preventive, educational or supportive services while undergoing chemotherapy. Systemic support nurses are registered nurses who have specialized in the administration of chemotherapy treatments.
- Pharmacists - prepare the drugs needed for your chemotherapy and play a key role in identifying any possible side effects or drug-related problems during your treatment.
- Other services - Nutritionists, Psychosocial Resources and Dental Services are all part of the chemotherapy team.
Communicating with Your Team
Getting the most out of your visit with your physician
- Write down your questions ahead of time and take a note pad with you to jot down the response. It is even better if you bring someone with you, a good communicator who can listen along and /or take notes.
- Ask for a copy of your medical records, it is your legal right under Canadian law.
- Your nurse is one of your best resources: typically the nurse working with your physician has a great deal of experience, and will be an excellent link between you and your physician. Ask questions and seek advice.
- Be assertive! Remember you are your own best advocate. Don’t feel like you are "taking up time" or asking "stupid questions". This is your appointment and your personal time with your physician.
- Find out if your hospital has an individual who acts as patient advocate or addresses patient concerns.
Getting a Second Opinion
It's your right to seek a second opinion.
A possible diagnosis of ovarian cancer can be overwhelming. You are making some life altering decisions and you should be completely comfortable with any treatment plan, especially one that involves major surgery. You may want a second opinion to confirm your doctor's recommendations.
Do not ever feel that you must justify your reasons for consulting another physician.
A second opinion is appropriate when:
- You don’t feel satisfied that your surgeon has the appropriate experience and skill to perform your surgery.
- You want another opinion about your course of treatment.
- You are uncomfortable with your physician's communication style.
How to get a second opinion
Depending on where you are in the course of your diagnosis and treatment, either your own family doctor or the gynecologic oncologist seeing you can refer you for a second opinion.
There are a relatively small number of gynecologic oncologists in Canada and there is a good chance that your gynecologic oncologist will be acquainted with another who can meet with you.
If you decide to go to the United States, you can, in most cases, self refer and contact the cancer centres directly. Some hospitals have an international patient office that can coordinate your visit. It may even be possible to send your notes to a physician for review without a face-to-face appointment. Be sure to be informed about associated costs and medical coverage.