Get the most from a medical appointment says BC Cancer

October is Health Literacy Month and to make the most of every appointment, Patient & Family Education has tips people can use to make sure they understand what their health care provider tells them. 

Approximately 9 in 10 adults will, at some point along their patient journey, leave an appointment unclear about the information their health care provider has told them. This is due to a number of things including stress and complex medical language. Health care providers want their patients to understand their health information. However, sometimes patients might feel too overwhelmed to ask questions or remember the information they were told. To help ensure clear communication the next time you or a loved one sees a health care provider, here are a few tips and tricks from BC Cancer Patient & Family Education.

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1. Prepare for the appointment 

Write down a list of questions and things to talk about. Do not rely on memory.

2. Ask questions

If a patient is confused or needs more details, they are supported and encouraged to ask questions. 

BC Cancer health care providers work hard to communicate clearly. Sometimes a health care provider may need to explain the information in a different way or use different words. 

3. Bring a friend or family member to the appointment

A loved one can take notes for patients, listen to what the doctor is saying and ask questions for them.  

4. Write down information

Take notes during the appointment or ask if the appointment can be (audio) recorded.  

Health care providers may give a lot of information during appointments. Chemotherapy patients, in particular, should not rely on memory. Memory loss can be a common side effect of treatment.  

5. Be honest

Health care providers need to know about a patient’s current and past health. Some people may feel embarrassed to share information about smoking habits, alcohol or drug use, sexual problems or symptoms like diarrhea. It can be hard to talk about these things but health care providers need to know this information so that they can help the patient and recommend treatment. 

6. Follow directions

It is very important to follow a health care provider’s instructions, especially about when to fill prescriptions and how to take them safely.  


At BC Cancer, patients may have many people on their health care team.  If patients have questions or health concerns, they can speak to any of them. This includes nurses, oncologists, radiation therapists, counsellors, dietitians and many others. 

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