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Managing the Conference

It is very common for parents to be overwhelmed with the shock of diagnosis and so much new information about the disease and the treatment options. This can make it hard for anyone to concentrate. Also, the information can be quite complicated. Your doctor and the medical team know that this is very hard for parents.

This meeting is important because you will hear about the treatment choices for your child. You are now part of the team. You may be asked to make a decision about what kind of treatment your child gets and when there is more than one option available, this is hard to do. In order to understand the options, you may hear things about your child’s condition that are very painful to think about. The doctor will explain the possible risks of treatments which are sometimes scary. All of this information can add to the strong emotions you are already feeling. It is natural and doctors expect families to experience powerful feelings under these circumstances.

Although there have been great successes in treating children’s cancer, one of the hardest parts of this experience is understanding that no one is absolutely certain if the treatments will work. Nor do doctors know if bad side effects will occur in your child’s case. The uncertainty can add to the distress you may already be experiencing. The doctor’s job is to take the time you need and help you understand the information so you can make an informed decision. While starting your child’s treatment soon may be important, there is plenty of time for you to talk to the doctors in this meeting. They understand that this is very difficult and emotional for you.

Some Suggestions From Other Parents:

  • Try to take notes and check them as you go along to make sure you understand what you are hearing.
  • Feel free to ask the doctors to repeat parts of what they have said or ask them to slow down or explain something again.
  • You might ask to read the consent form before the meeting so you have a chance to think about questions you want to ask. You can go over the consent form with a nurse before or after the consent conference.
  • You can ask to take a 5-10 minute break to collect your thoughts.

If the Doctor Talks Too Fast or Uses Unfamiliar Words

Never hesitate to ask a doctor to slow down, repeat what they said, spell out terms, or explain things in more understandable language. Doctors who see so many children with cancer and who treat them on a daily basis sometimes forget that this is YOUR first experience with this frightening diagnosis. They are likely to use terms that only they understand, or they may speak too fast. However, they truly want you to understand what is happening. It is ok to ask a question as many times as it takes for you to understand the answer. You are a vital link in your child’s care. You are helping yourself and everyone involved by becoming a better-informed part of the team.

Your medical team knows that many families have a hard time absorbing the amount of medical information given after diagnosis, and they will encourage you to ask again and again if you do not understand something. Slowly but surely, the information will be easier to understand over time. You also can ask to have another conference to review the information again, or you can ask to talk privately to the nurse or doctor after the meeting.

Managing the Conference was last modified: November 19th, 2014 by Geoff Duncan

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