Treatment History for Cancer Patients
To create the best treatment plan for you, your doctors need to know your complete treatment history and any other relevant medical information. Especially for aging adults with an increased risk for all cancers, your personal health record tells doctors which medications and therapies were successful, and which failed. Additionally, your treatment history provides a detailed account of your body’s reaction to treatment and any subsequent complications.
When treating cancer, your care team should be kept up-to-date with how you’re feeling physically, emotionally, and mentally. Keeping detailed notes of any care you receive, new symptoms and how they make you feel, and your medical documents provides the fullest picture of your current health, your health care so far, and which steps should come next.
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What to Tell Your Doctor
Cancer therapies can be rigorous and potentially dangerous, depending on your type of cancer as well as your health history. Your treatment history guides each member of your cancer care team in selecting future treatments with the greatest potential for success – whether the goals of treatment are curative or palliative. Consequently, comprehensive medical records from previous doctors, hospital visits, laboratory tests, medications, and side effects of therapy are necessary to give your care team a complete view of your overall health.
It’s a good idea for patients and their caregivers to keep records of pertinent medical information as it happens. For instance, if you have to visit the emergency room in the hospital, getting copies of clinician narrative reports (not patient discharge instructions) can give your primary doctor a clear idea of what happened and how to alter your treatment going forward.
Over time, you’ll add new treatments and notes from doctors’ visits to your treatment history. Breaking up your treatment history into sections (medical profile, cancer diagnosis, and medications/treatments) may help you keep it organized. Below is a guideline developed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) describing which information from your treatment history to tell your doctor.
Your medical profile is similar to a social media profile because it provides quick descriptions of your current medical status as well as all of your collected health care experiences. Your medical profile should include:
- Allergies and any allergic reactions to medicine
- Any history of addiction or substance abuse
- Current prescriptions, dose, and schedule
- Medical conditions (year of diagnosis and how they’ve been treated)
- New and recurring symptoms (severity and how long they’ve lasted)
- Recent exposures (i.e., recently exposed to coronavirus)
- Over-the-counter medications you take (including herbal supplements)
Most treatment plans include some form of prescription medication. As such, it is helpful for doctors to know which drugs you’ve taken, how well they treated your symptoms, and if you had any negative reactions. Ensure you keep an accurate record of all of your medications (including current and former prescriptions if you can).
Also, over-the-counter drugs and herbal supplements should be included in your medical profile because they, too, have the potential to interrupt or alter the effects of treatment.
Cancer Diagnosis Information
After being diagnosed with cancer, you will be given lots of information, including new terms you may not have heard before, your cancer cell type and stage, prognosis, and possible treatment schedule.
So much new information may feel overwhelming. As such, patients should consider bringing a loved one or caregiver to doctors’ appointments to take notes and collect medical documentation.
Cancer diagnosis info you’ll want to keep for your treatment history include:
- Complications and side effects since diagnosis
- Date of surgery or biopsy that confirmed cancer
- Doctor who diagnosed the patient
- Place where diagnostic testing occurred
- Primary cancer group (such as lung cancers)
- Primary type of tumors found
- Stage of cancer
- Type of surgery or biopsy performed (and results)
Be sure to include any surgical procedures you’ve had, the reason for the procedure, dates of treatment, complications afterward, and prescriptions on your treatment history. Even an operation as commonplace as a tonsillectomy can tell doctors how your body responded to anesthesia, antibiotics, and about your ability to recover from surgical therapy.
After a diagnosis of malignant cancer, time is of the essence. Many health care teams will begin cancer treatments right away to reduce painful symptoms and prevent the further spread of cancer throughout the body.
As a result, cancer patients and their caregivers may find it useful to keep track of their treatment history with the format below:
- Type of Treatment:
- Reason for Treatment:
- Side Effects After Treatment:
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- Weight loss, nausea, etc.
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Talking About Your Symptoms
Your physical and emotional experiences as a cancer patient are important to your treatment history records. Consequently, your reaction to new medications or procedures should be written down and maintained in a journal.
Worrying about your health is not a sign of weakness. Your cancer care team needs to know how you are being affected by cancer therapy drugs and treatments to properly care for you. Moreover, you are not complaining when you tell your doctor about complications caused by treatment.
Your doctor will ask you when your symptoms started, how long they last, and how painful or immobilizing they are. Discuss any new symptoms since your last visit and anything you’ve done to manage them (such as taking cough drops for a persistent cough).