As you likely know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. But did you know that it is also Health Literacy month?

The Canadian Public Health Association (www.cpha.ca) defines health literacy as “ability to access, understand and act on information for health.” Health Literacy Month is a time to promote the importance of understandable health information. http://www.healthliteracymonth.org/hl_month.asp

Hopefully, making health organizations and health professionals aware of health literacy, more patients will get the information they need to take part in their care.

When people are told they have cancer, they shouldn’t have to feel like they’ve been abducted by aliens to a land where everyone speaks a different language – diagnosis, pathology report, estrogen positive, triple negative, in situ, aromatase inhibitor, antiemetic, bolus, cycles…my goodness alphabet soup would be easier to understand.

Often patients are told to ask their doctor to repeat information in simpler terms if they don’t understand something. Very important. But it’s equally important that you try to get to know the language of your doctor.

Understanding medical terms can help put your fear and anxiety at ease and put you back in the driver’s seat. You don’t have to understand it all and not all of it at once. There are several websites that offer stepping stones to understanding medical-ese.

For example the Canadian Cancer Society writes all of their information in plain language. Start here http://www.cancer.ca/ccs/internet/standard/0,3182,3172_10175_273057_langId-en,00.html. If you are looking for more in-depth information, you can use the Canadian Cancer Encyclopedia http://info.cancer.ca/cce-ecc/.

Where did you go to find help understanding medical terms to know more about your diagnosis and treatment options?

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