After being diagnosed with breast cancer, expect tons of paperwork. We talk about everything from doctor’s reports to medical prescriptions and bills to insurance information.
But you can keep it all organized and close at hand.
First of all
One document you’ll want to have handy is a hard copy of your biopsy or pathology report, says Julie Schreiber, supervisor of oncology patient navigation at Northside Hospital Cancer Institute in Atlanta.
“It’s important for their future records and understanding of their diagnosis to have this paper in front of them saying, ‘OK, I see exactly what my diagnosis is here. And I have the words to identify what particular type of cancer I have. It’s huge.”
Some insurance companies may require proof of diagnosis before starting a claim.
What to keep
You can collect some records yourself or request copies from your doctor or hospital. Think about what you or your caregivers might need in the future, such as:
Pictures: Mammograms, ultrasounds, MRIs, PET / CAT and x-rays on a disc or flash drive
Pathology files: Lab reports from when a doctor takes cells or tissue
Surgical records: Date of surgery, place of surgery, surgeon’s name and contact details, post-operative summaries and reports
Treatment records: Type of treatment (chemo, radiotherapy, etc.), place of treatment, doctor, dates of reception, dose and side effects
Medications: Name of the drug (generic and brand), what the drug is used for, prescription date, dose, doctor who prescribed it, instructions for use and side effects
Medical bills: Invoices and proof of payment for each health care provider
Personal informations: Family doctor, health insurance, emergency contacts, list of your usual medications, vitamins / supplements, allergies, vaccines, blood group, current and past addresses, date of birth, living will and medical power of attorney
Digital or paper?
When it comes to organizing it all, “Some people are paper people and some are primarily digital people,” says Schreiber. If possible, keep physical and digital copies.
You have the choice for digital storage. You can use your personal computer. Or use USB drives, external hard drives, and cloud storage so you can take recordings with you.
Mobile technology can also help. Groups like the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Apple Health, and CarePassport have apps that record:
- Doctors and other health care providers
- Questions for your doctors
An easy way to stay organized is with a three-ring binder. Use dividers to group documents by type, such as medical bills, treatment reports, and medications. Or you can organize them by treatment phase, like diagnosis and treatment.
Also consider creating a “cover” page for the workbook. List the basics such as names of health care providers, phone numbers and how to reach them after hours. Caregivers can quickly find information when they need it.
After you’re done with your treatment, Schreiber says putting away a physical filing cabinet can be a symbolic way to end a chapter on cancer. “It’s like letting go of the burden of treating cancer. “
Remember, these are your medical records
You have the right to view your health information, thanks to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Doctors, insurance companies, laboratories, and pharmacies should allow you to view your medical records and obtain copies.
The best way to make sure you have your records is to ask for them during processing. You will probably get them for free.
Do not be too long.
“It’s important for patients to know that they are responsible for their medical records,” says Schreiber. “Hospitals only keep records for a certain number of years. If in 20 years you need a copy of your pathology report, you may not be able to get it. “
Laws differ from state to state, but healthcare providers can usually dispose of patient health information after 10 years.