What to Expect at a Psychosocial Oncology Appointment

While many patients consult with our psychiatrist in an outpatient setting, the first time you meet with him or her may be when you are admitted to the hospital for surgery, treatment, or evaluation. Regardless of the setting in which you meet with the psychiatrist, the goal of your initial consultation will be to evaluate the burden of the disease, both physically and mentally, in order to develop the most appropriate coping strategies.

Your consultation will be similar to other doctor visits in many ways. The doctor will gather information regarding your past medical history and discuss any current symptoms you are experiencing. It will be important to review medications you are currently taking, at what dosage, and for which condition. They will also be interested in knowing who prescribed each of your medications and for how long you have been taking each. It may be helpful to write down a list of your medications and bring it with you to your consultation.

After reviewing your history, the doctor will conduct a psychiatrist's equivalent to a physical exam, called a mental status examination. Throughout your conversation, he will directly assess your mood, try to determine if you are suffering from any cognitive deficits or memory loss, and measure your level of disorientation.

In some cases, a trusted family member or friend can be very helpful in assessing how pancreatic cancer and its treatment have been affecting a patient. We encourage patients to bring a family member or friend to their appointment. The insights a patient's loved ones provide can help shape a patient's management plan.

By the end of your consultation, you and the doctor will have determined a management plan. Part of your management plan will include addressing all physical burdens of pancreatic cancer such as pain, nausea, and fatigue. This may involve adjusting your pain medications or referring you to another Pancreas Center specialist for further intervention. Based on your evaluation, additional medication, counseling, or support groups may also be recommended.

A consultation takes about 90 minutes.