As a patient or caregiver affected by a gynecologic cancer diagnosis, you can help your gynecologic oncologist ensure that you or your loved one receive the best possible care. Learn all about each prescribed medicine—both new drugs and routine drugs taken for some time. This is crucial, whether you are the patient or a caregiver of a patient who is primarily dependent upon you for support.
- Be sure that you have what you need. Are the proper medications on hand? Do not hesitate to call the doctor’s office if any questions or concerns arise. It is quite common for the effectiveness of drugs to vary from patient to patient, and a change in dose or in the prescribed medication is all that may be necessary to achieve the desired result.
- Be certain to review your response to the medications prescribed throughout your treatment. After each chemotherapy treatment, for instance, if control of side effects was not satisfactory, then a review and change of medications may be needed. If postoperative pain or nausea persists, a medication change may not be the answer, but a visit to the doctor’s office may be essential. Help can be only a phone call away.
- Contact your own physician first. Your first step should always be to attempt to directly contact the doctor’s office, rather than going to the emergency room where only physicians unfamiliar with the situation may be available.
- Know the accurate dosage of each medication you have been prescribed and your dosing schedule: how much are you taking and when should you take it? For example, if a pain medication is prescribed every 6 hours and is not offering satisfactory relief, immediately phone the physician’s office to find out if more medication can be taken more often. If not, ask if the medicine can be changed to something that might be more effective. Have a concise account of what changes have occurred that might have caused more pain. An examination, lab tests, or X-rays may be necessary.
- Tell your gynecologic oncologist about all of the medications you may be taking. Often following surgery or during chemotherapy, there can be a long list of routine medications prescribed by a personal physician and not the treating gynecologic oncologist. It is important to check with the prescribing physician’s office and assure that no changes need be made in these regular medications, which are usually continued.
- If possible, keep a drug log: if there is longer than usual need for non-routine medications—especially pain medication—it is very helpful if an accurate written drug log that lists time taken, type of drug, and dose has been kept, making it very clear when medications have been taken.
When there is continued communication with the doctor’s office, patients and caregiver benefit. Accurate monitoring of all medications and close observations of patient responses (and especially marked changes) can often make a big difference in the level of care a patient receives. Keep those lines of communication open for better care.