Physician Selection

  • Most endocrinologists, pediatricians, otolaryngologists, and pediatric surgeons have little or no experience with treating thyroid cancer in children.
  • With pediatric thyroid cancer accounting for less than 1% of all childhood cancers, the search for experienced doctors should be done carefully.
  • Even the physicians most experienced in treating this disease have encouraged patients to get second opinions when dealing with children with thyroid cancer.
  • Most cases of pediatric thyroid carcinoma are not immediately life-threatening, so, when the diagnosis is made, take the time to find a doctor or medical center experienced with the management of this disease.
  • It is vital to do things correctly from the beginning, particularly surgery, so seek out the best treatment for a child. Remember a child's best advocates are his or her parents, and no physician will fault a parent for seeking out the best treatment available.

Doctor-Patient Relationships

  • Having good communication with your doctor is one of the keys to getting good medical care.
  • Being able to communicate with your doctor helps ensure that there is understanding about planned treatments and that the child or adolescent receives the proper treatment, thus aiding in the eventual outcome.
  • Studies have shown that in any type of crisis, the outcome is better when the people involved have a good working relationship.
  • If your child's physician is not a pediatric thyroid cancer specialist, he or she should be open to consulting with a pediatric thyroid cancer expert.
  • You want the best care for your son or daughter, and the best doctor. You are bringing your son or daughter to the doctor for medical care, not for you to find a new friend. Remember that your family is taking the time and transportation to receive care, and usually is paying the doctor, often through insurance and co-payments. It's your child's body and your time and money.
  • If your child isn't getting good care or if you find it difficult to communicate with your child's doctor, find a physician who is knowledgeable about thyroid cancer and with whom you can communicate well.
  • For geographic lists of physicians who are thyroid and thyroid cancer specialists, visit the Find a Specialist page of the web site: http://www.thyca.org/about/specialist/

Questions to Consider

Here are some questions to help you decide if you and your child's doctor are on the same team and make good partners.

  • Does the doctor welcome questions from the child or adolescent with cancer, as well as from the parent(s) or guardian(s)?
  • Is the doctor available to give you information and advice by telephone, fax, and/or e-mail?
  • If you ask in advance for a longer appointment time with your child's doctor, are you able to get it?
  • Does the doctor always explain why he or she is recommending a particular medical test?
  • If you or your child are unclear about what the doctor is saying, will the doctor take time to rephrase it?
  • Does the doctor use technical medical jargon all the time, or does he or she speak in terms you can understand?
  • Does the doctor address your specific concerns, instead of offering "one size fits all" medical care?
  • Does the doctor ask you what medications the child or adolescent is taking, both prescription medication and over-the-counter medication?
  • Does your doctor describe treatment options and explain them carefully? Does the doctor explain the benefits and possible side effects of recommended treatments and medications?
  • Does the doctor help you and your child feel calm and comfortable during the appointments and discussions?
  • Does your doctor treat both you and the young patient with respect?
  • At the end of the appointment, does the doctor ask if you and the young patient have any further questions or concerns?
  • Will the doctor encourage you to seek another opinion if you want it? Will he or she help you arrange for that second opinion, including suggesting a pediatric thyroid cancer expert?
  • Does the doctor help you understand or get someone in the office to help you understand your insurance benefits if you are unclear about them? If you do not have health insurance, is there someone in the office with whom to discuss payment issues?
  • If you are unhappy with the doctor for any reason, do you feel comfortable telling him or her?

Tips for Remembering What Your Doctor Says At the Appointment
Adapted from Teamwork: The Cancer Patient's Guide to Talking With Your Doctor by L.R. Brusky and others.

  • Take a family member or friend to the appointment. Two sets of ears are better than one.
  • Take a tape recorder if necessary. (Make sure to ask if it's all right to tape!)
  • Take notes. Keep a journal of questions, answers, and comments about the appointment.
  • Ask for an explanation of unfamiliar terms and definitions.
  • Ask for a visual aid. Seeing what your doctor is talking about on a chart or visual aid will help you and your child remember.
  • Ask if the doctor has any printed information to give you and your child. Ask for the availability of other resources.
  • Ask questions. Don't be afraid to be your child's advocate. To ensure that you understand the answers, paraphrase the answer back to the physician and ask if that's correct.
  • Give your doctor feedback on what he or she has just told you and your child.

Questions to Ask the Doctor
Adapted from When Your Doctor Has Bad News by A. B. Weir, M.D., Oncologist

  • How confident are you of the diagnosis?
  • What will this problem do to the length and quality of the young patient's life?
  • What is the best treatment?
  • Should we seek another opinion?
  • Are there any research programs (clinical trials) that we should consider looking into?
  • What nutritional or complementary approaches might be helpful?
  • If the child or adolescent were your family member, what would you advise us to do?

More Questions To Consider Asking the Doctor
http://www.thyca.org/newly-diagnosed/questions/

For the Patient: Establish Some Goals
Adapted from When Your Doctor Has Bad News by A. B. Weir, M.D., Oncologist

  • How will I learn to live with my illness?
  • Who am I now? How can I matter?
  • Do I have a new mission?
  • Can this type of life be my finest hour?
  • What gifts can I give?
  • How do I best prepare my loved ones to live with my illness?

Last updated: October 4, 2006