Talking to Your Doctor: Precision Medicine


  • Write down the top 3 things you want to have covered during your visit. Give the list to your doctor at the beginning of the appointment. This helps your doctor understand what is most important to you. For example, if one of your top 3 questions is about the cost of a treatment, your doctor may connect you with resources to help. The same holds true for questions about side effects or the likelihood that you will be able to continue to work. Each person’s concerns will be highly individual.


  • It may be hard to know what questions to ask, especially if you are newly diagnosed. It is likely you will hear a lot of information, which may be challenging to understand all at once. Consider asking you doctor to write down key points and to do items like additional testing or other doctors you need to see. If your doctor agrees, you may want to record the conversation.


  • Ask your doctor to explain terms or tests that are unfamiliar to you. This reminds the doctor to speak in plain language to help everyone in the room have a better understanding of what is being said.


  • If you are a visual learner, ask the doctor if he/she has any pictures or diagrams to help you see what they are describing. You can also ask if there are any online or print resources to reinforce the information.


  • You may have heard of a new treatment or procedure so don’t be afraid to ask. There may be a reason a treatment wouldn’t be right for you at this time and it may help to understand why. For example, some of the new targeted therapies only work if a tumor has specific mutations, other targeted therapies may shrink tumors but quite have the power to eliminate all of the cancer cells. It is important to know what the goal of a therapy is: cure, control, comfort.


  • You may want to ask your doctor if he/she anticipates any potential problems. For instance, will your insurance cover the treatment and how will the treatment affect your quality of life. Remember however, it is difficult to predict how any one person will tolerate a specific treatment.


Shared-decision making is the process of partnering with your doctor when making treatment decisions. You and your doctor can make the right decisions for you by combining the best scientific information with your personal preferences and values.