How to Manage Your Cancer Paperwork

Whoever said we'd eventually become a paperless society never navigated the sea of paperwork you generate during treatment for a serious illness.

Cancer patients are deluged with medical reports, insurance forms, legal papers, and other important documents. This paperwork is inevitable, so you need to find ways to manage it.

While each doctor and facility keeps its own records about you and your treatment, it's important to keep your own Personal Health Record (PHR). Your Personal Health Record is separate from your formal medical records and serves as a central repository with critical information from all your care providers.

Cancer can leave you feeling helpless, so effectively managing your paperwork may give you a small sense of control and make it a bit easier to manage logistics, such as filing insurance claims or completing tax forms. Furthermore, PHRs help patients play an active role in their own health care and make important decisions about treatment. Studies show that patients who are more involved benefit from better outcomes.

Develop your own system for keeping track of important documents. You can rely on traditional paper methods, such as a three-ring binder, or use an electronic PRH system on your computer or through a web-based service.

What to Include in Your Personal Health Record

  • Key medical records, such as lab reports, notes, treatment plans. As a cancer patient, you'll specifically want to include your cancer diagnosis (type and stage); dates of treatment; lab, imaging, and other test results.
  • Treatment information, including names of chemotherapy drugs and doses for chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
  • Information about the rest of your care, such as medications for side effects and nutritional guidelines.
  • Other health information (previous illnesses, screenings, hospitalizations, etc).
  • Insurance paperwork.
  • Receipts.
  • Information about financial assistance.
  • A Living Will, which specifies what type of care you want if you become unable to speak for yourself.
  • A Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare, naming a person (healthcare proxy) who can make health decisions on your behalf.
  • Contact information for your physicians and other care providers.

Thanks to the 2003 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), physicians and medical facilities are required to give you access to your medical records. You just need to ask.

As another option, the American Society of Clinical Oncology's website provides templates you can download for cancer treatment plans and summaries and survivorship care plans.  




American Health Information Management Association. "What is a PHR?" Web.

Patient Resource Publishing. "Managing cancer-related paperwork." Web. "Keeping a personal medical record." Web. 10 December 2007.

American Society of Clinical Oncology. "Cancer Treatment Plan and Summary Resources." Web.

National Cancer Institute. "Taking control: Your care and treatment." Web. 23 August 2005.