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Being an empowered patient

There’s no way around it. A diagnosis of cancer is frightening, and most people react the same way — with disbelief, anger, and ultimately, a sense of having no control over one’s life.

But medicine and technology has come so far that many cancers, if caught early, can be cured, or at the very least become manageable conditions. Cancer no longer means a death sentence, and every year more discoveries are made that promise more effective screenings, treatments, and cures. So if you hear the words, “You have cancer” from your physician, stop a moment. Take time to learn. Ask questions — research your cancer through reliable sources. By becoming informed about your disease and your treatment options, you also become more empowered. You can make educated decisions with your doctors that will be right for you. Recent studies support the benefits of being an active part of your healthcare team rather than merely being the patient. Cancer patients have strong needs for information and supportive, communicative relationships with healthcare providers. Such relationships can significantly affect their emotional health and possibly even treatment outcomes. Although patients vary in their willingness and ability to actively participate in medical consultations, the more active patient participation contributes to improved health outcomes and quality of care — and in most cases, it’s the patient who must initiate the participation, not the physician. It’s up to you. Because of this emerging pattern, the role of the oncologist is changing, experts say, as patients are encouraged to become increasingly educated about their cancer and participate in shaping their own treatment. As a result, doctors and patients must learn to work in close partnership with one another. “There is much to be gained when doctors take the time to get to know their patients and to develop a true partnership in decisions regarding their treatment,” said Dr. Steve Mamus, a medical oncologist at the Cancer Center of Sarasota. “Patients have become better informed these days, and their full participation can result in healthier outcomes.” So — become an active partner in your recovery. Learn everything you can. Make educated decisions. Choose your physician wisely. You’ll appreciate the difference it makes in your life!

Betsey Burrell is patient services coordinator at the Cancer Center of Sarasota. Dr. Steven Mamus, Medical Director, is triple-certified in medical hematology, medical oncology and internal medicine and has been treating cancer patients for more than 20 years. For more information, please call the Center at 941.923.1872 or visit