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Tell Your Healthcare Team How You Feel During Treatment for Colorectal Cancer

Getting the best results from your treatment is important. But your quality of life also matters. Your healthcare team is there to help you manage your symptoms as well as to treat your cancer. Let your doctor and nurse know if you are experiencing any side effects or discomfort. Make sure to tell your doctor or nurse how these problems affect you from day to day.

Side effects aren’t always just physical. For instance, it’s normal to worry about any problems you may have. You may ask yourself, “Is my cancer getting worse? Are the treatments working?” Talk with your doctor and nurse about your concerns.

When you talk with your healthcare team, you need to let them know as much as you can about the problem. Keep a record of the following information and then bring it with you to your appointments:

  • What the problem is. Describe the problem (diarrhea, depression, appetite loss) that you’re concerned about. Be as specific as possible.

  • Where the problem is. Is there a specific area that is affected, such as your stomach or your head?

  • When it started. How long have you had the problem? Did you first notice the problem before or after a treatment session? Did you have it before you started treatment? Is it a constant problem? Do you notice that it’s worse or better at certain times? Does it come and go?

  • How bad it is. If you had to rank the problem on a scale from 0 to 10--0 being not bad, 10 being worst--where would it rank?

  • Things that make the problem better or worse. Are there certain activities or environments that affect how you feel or what you can and can’t do?

  • How the problem affects your day-to-day life. Have you had to stop any activities because of the problem? Has your life changed because of the problem?

  • What you’re currently doing to manage the symptoms. Is it helping? Be sure to tell about any complementary or alternative therapies you may be trying at home.

It may help you to keep a chart of your symptoms. Your chart might look something like this:

Sample: Symptom Tracking Chart

Date

Symptom

Intensity Rating

(0-10)

Severity Rating

(1-4)

Management

(What did you do? Did it work?)

January 3

Pain

4

2

I tried to watch a funny video, but I couldn’t pay attention. I put a cool, wet towel on my forehead and lay down in a dark room. After a nap, I felt better.