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Newly Diagnosed With Cancer

Decide whether you or someone else will be the decision maker about your health care. Learn how to maximize time with a doctor.

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Medical decisions may not be as clear cut as you would like. There may be different medical treatments available. There may be gray areas. Medicine is a combination of science and art. 

There is no right or wrong when it comes to who makes the decisions. The key is what works for you. It is worth keeping in mind that there is a growing body of evidence that patients who participate in the decision making process do better than people who don't. The great majority of "how to" books and articles by long term survivors talk about the importance of being pro-active and understanding that it is your job to make the health care system work for you.

By and large, cancer doctors today understand that their role is to present information and advice. It is the patient's role to make the decision. 

Still, it is your body and your decision who you want to make medical decisions. If you don't want to make the decisions, you can ask the doctor to. Or you can appoint a person to make medical decisions for you. In legal language, such a person is called a "Health Care Power of Attorney" or "Proxy."

NOTE: You can continue to have control over medical decisions even if you become unable to communicate through legal documents known together as "Advance Directives." A Living Will is the advance directive we hear about most often.

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