5 Ways to Be Your Own Health Advocate as a Cancer Patient

No one likes feeling powerless. Unfortunately, the healthcare system can leave many cancer patients feeling completely lost. Rather than leaving all of your care decisions up to healthcare providers, empowering yourself to advocate for your own healthcare needs will ensure you get the best care possible. Thankfully, medicine is moving toward a healthcare model in which patients actively work alongside their healthcare providers to choose a course of treatment. Here are some tips from Kickin’ Cancer to help you become your own patient advocate!

Manage Your Health Documents

Maintaining control over your own health documents puts you in the driver’s seat. By storing your health information, you’ll be able to submit documents to various healthcare providers promptly and get faster appointments. If you need to share files with your doctor or forward digital documents to specialists, PDFs are preferred over Microsoft Word or Excel files. You can use this PDF converter to convert other file types into PDFs for easy sharing!

Lead a Healthy Lifestyle

You have a lot of control over how you live, what you eat, and other important lifestyle factors that can affect your cancer care. Embracing a healthy lifestyle is a great way to take control of your health and combat the side effects associated with common cancer treatments. For example, Cancer.net stresses the importance of getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night to help with coping ability, mood, memory, attention, and weight control.

Try to also exercise regularly, both during and after your treatment. This can help reduce fatigue and combat muscle loss. If you’re too busy to spend time exercising, try to squeeze movement into your regular routine, such as by taking the stairs instead of the elevator or walking on your lunch break. Be sure to talk to your healthcare team about developing an exercise plan that’s both safe and appropriate for you.

Seek Information

The more you know about your condition and course of treatment, the better. Do your own research online, ask for a second opinion from other doctors, and talk to a specialist. Ask your healthcare team plenty of questions about your diagnosis, treatment, clinical trial options, treatment side effects, and available support services. You can also join online cancer communities or support groups to uncover more information about your diagnosis. Armed with this additional knowledge, you’ll be able to make more effective decisions regarding your care and treatment.

Understand Your Health Insurance Policy

Treating cancer can be incredibly expensive. Make sure you understand your health insurance coverage so you can avoid surprise expenses and avoidable debt. For example, CancerCare.org suggests contacting your insurance company and asking about deductibles, co-payments, and covered treatments. Find out if your plan covers other care options like second opinions, clinical trials, specialists, travel and lodging, and fertility preservation. Keep in mind that many federal and state programs provide financial benefits to help with healthcare costs, such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. If you’re struggling to cover your medical costs, these resources can help.

Negotiate Your Medical Bills

Did you know that you can negotiate your medical bills? Even if insurance is covering part of your medical costs, don’t hesitate to contest a medical bill if you feel something is off. Billing mistakes happen all the time! After receiving a bill, call your healthcare provider and ask them to explain each charge. You may even be able to review an itemized bill through an online account. Don’t automatically assume that all the information on the bill is correct. If you think you have been billed for the wrong service, contact the provider’s billing department as well as your insurance company.

Receiving a cancer diagnosis is really tough. You deserve to feel in control of your treatment! Advocating for yourself will ensure you receive the best possible care and involves being informed about your condition, asking questions, keeping track of your own medical documents, and practicing healthy lifestyle habits. Remember, you are the expert on your own body and healthcare needs!

For more resources like this, check out Kickin’ Cancer! We host a library of resources that will help you take control of your health and life. – Submitted by Jennifer Scott