Dr. Daisuke Tachikawa's advice for patients coping with chronic diseases

Dr. Daisuke Tachikawa

Health Column

12 Pieces of Advice from Dr. Daisuke Tachikawa

1. Don't panic

You may be disturbed and distracted upon hearing the word "chronic disease". But, please stay calm and don't panic. Aside from blood diseases like leukemia, the prognosis of all chronic diseases will not be affected by taking the time to carefully consider treatment. First, let us calm down.

And the first thing to do is to determine whether the diagnosis of chronic disease is "confirmed". If the doctor recommends a treatment option, remember to ask the doctor "is it the best available option?" Are there any other treatment options? If there are other options, remember to ask about their strengths and weaknesses, and side effects. If the patient cannot accept the treatment, it is important to seek second or third opinions.

2. Understand what the doctor said

Try not to go to the hospital alone, ask your main caregiver (wife, husband, children, etc) to accompany with you and listen to the doctor's explanation. Since each person may understand the doctor differently, sometimes there may be misunderstanding.

Your mind may also go blank when hearing bad news, and will forget doctor's words. The most important is to write down what you heard, and take note of the important points. With the doctor's permission, you may also make audio records. Then, prepare yourself according with the information received.

3. Organize doctor's information

Make a copy of the blood test results or image test results during the conversation and keep a file for yourself. In this way, you will have a record of your own medical history, and will help you to convey your points when seeking second opinion.

If you do not understand some of the terms or meanings, please don't hesitate to ask the doctor to clarify.

4. Learn to ask

You may have reservation on asking the doctors to take time out of their busy schedules to properly explain your conditions. And the doctors may wish to properly convey the information, but could not do so due to insufficient time, and puts themselves in a dilemma.

You can plan ahead with the doctor to choose a time and place to hear about your conditions. You may also give a list of your inquiries to the doctor if you know how long you are allowed to make inquiry.

Try to put your questions in a lists and not in paragraphs so your questions are more easily conveyed across.

5. Clearly express your questions

What should I ask?How should I ask?These are often concerns echoed by the patients

First, regardless of any questions, list one by one the parts where you don't understand.

Then, do your own research first with tools like the internet, but not from personal websites; look for information from public institutions. Then cross off the questions where answers are already available. You can then ask the doctor on terms and content that you don't understand, even after researching them yourself.

If you still don't understand after hearing the doctor's explanation, respond immediately. If you run out of time for consultation, please confirm again the next time you go for a clinical visit.

6. Verify the content of the explanation

If the patients can describe the doctor's explanation to their family members in a clear way, including the type of disease, degree of malignancy, progression, treatment methods and side effects, and the main caregiver has the same understanding as the patient, then it is more than enough.

Additionally, the same caregiver must accompany the patient to receive the doctor's explanation. If a different caregiver is present during the explanation, misunderstanding may occur due to not everyone may hear or understand identically. Basically, the doctor will only give explanations to the main caregiver.

7. Find the treatment option that is acceptable for you

Verify whether the doctor's recommended treatment is standard therapy. If you do not receive a definitive answer, or if you have ill feelings about the doctor, you can also choose to not be cared for by that doctor.

Additionally, if the doctor does not recommend standard therapy, please find out why such therapy is suggested. After hearing the doctor's explanation, then start the treatment.

It is also important to seek 2nd or 3rd opinions if you do not agree with that therapy. Because even with the same disease, the therapy used may vary with different considerations. By doing so will also make you feel at ease with the therapy recommended by the doctor.

8. Accept the treatment after thoroughly understanding the process

To avoid regretting your decision, select the treatment option that is acceptable for you. Only when the patient believes in the treatment will the effect reflected on the treatment outcomes.

Believing with faith will make it happen

Importantly, when hearing the explanation, find whether there are other options available if the treatment selected by you does not achieve the expected results.

9. Convey your expectations

Medical care is not solely conducted by the doctor. In their position, doctors only provide recommendations and directions

Only by understanding and accepting the patient's expectation can the doctor propose treatment options. In other words, there are therapeutic options that work along with the patient's living patterns.

For example, patients may wish to focus on QOL treatment, or low dosage chemotherapy that does not impair their work. If you have any expectation, please inform your doctor.

10. Take any information from the internet or friends with a grain of salt.

Information from the internet may not be correctly expressed and may confuse the readers

Printed text may feel correct, but they should not be totally trusted as well. There may be situation where such information contradict the opinions of medical personnel, leading to disputes.

Additionally, since drugs will cross react with each other, do not take any drugs or health items easily, even if your friends or relatives have recommended them: "this health food is great," "the herbal therapy is good for your body."

11. Value the quality of life (QOL)

Patients often seek to eradicate their chronic conditions as purpose of their treatment. While it is not entirely wrong, it would be meaningless if the patient remains bedridden due to complications or dies, even if the cancer cells can be eliminated through treatment.

In the palliative care phase, the patient should be exposed to treatment options that emphasize on quality of life. Don't try to eliminate chronic diseases; you may maintain QOL if you choose to co-exist with the disease.

12. Consideration of Medical Integration

We cannot only rely on applying the western medical means to help to alleviate or cure diseases. Sometimes we may have to integrate with oriental medical methods or alternative therapies when the situation requires. Some people have the belief that those are only to be considered when patient needs the last resort. They may be wrong as time is of essence to the diseases or patients. With the diagnosis, it is also crucial to apply the relevant integrated medical ways soonest. But bear in mind to choose those with related proofs.

When having intake of any health supplements, it is important to take into account the interaction with the drugs. Please consult a physician if they could be taken at the same time.