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Agency for Healthcare Research Quality

Next Steps After Your Diagnosis

Finding Information and Support

Next Steps After Your Diagnosis offers general advice for people with almost any disease or condition. And it has tips to help you learn more about your specific problem and how it can be treated.

The information here is presented in a simple way to help you scan the material and read only what you need right now. Organizations, publications, and other resources are included if you would like to know more. This online version has many additional resources with their Internet links. This document is also available en español.

To download the print version, go to the PDF File (250 KB). Plugin Software Help.

To obtain print copies of Next Steps After Your Diagnosis (AHRQ Publication Number 05-0049), call the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse at 1-800-358-9295 or send an E-mail to


Your doctor* gave you a diagnosis that could change your life. This document can help you take the next steps.

Every person is different, of course, and every person's disease or condition will affect them differently. But research shows that after getting a diagnosis, many people have some of the same reactions and needs.

Five Basic Steps

This document describes five basic steps to help you cope with your diagnosis, make decisions, and get on with your life.

Step 1: Take the time you need. Do not rush important decisions about your health. In most cases, you will have time to carefully examine your options and decide what is best for you.

Step 2: Get the support you need. Look for support from family and friends, people who are going through the same thing you are, and those who have "been there." They can help you cope with your situation and make informed decisions.

Step 3: Talk with your doctor. Good communication with your doctor can help you feel more satisfied with the care you receive. Research shows it can even have a positive effect on things such as symptoms and pain. Getting a "second opinion" may help you feel more confident about your care.

Step 4: Seek out information. When learning about your health problem and its treatment, look for information that is based on a careful review of the latest scientific findings published in medical journals.

Step 5: Decide on a treatment plan. Work with your doctor to decide on a treatment plan that best meets your needs.

As you take each step, remember this: Research shows that patients who are more involved in their health care tend to get better results and be more satisfied.

Although most of the published research referred to in this publication focuses on cancer, it likely is relevant to people with other diseases and conditions as well.

A DVD on this topic, combined with Check Your Medicines: Tips for Taking Medicines Safely, is available on DVD. The combined DVD, AHRQ Publication Number 07-M025-DVD, includes these two programs:

Next Steps After Your Diagnosis: Finding Information and Support: DVD features information from AHRQ to help patients who have been diagnosed with an illness to learn more about their condition and treatment options. It aims to help patients not only find information and resources but deal with the various physical and emotional aspects of a diagnosis. The short program provides individuals with important questions they should ask their doctor when they receive a diagnosis, and information to help them understand their disease or condition, how it might be treated, and what they need to know before making treatment decisions. Experts featured include, Carolyn Clancy, M.D., Gregg Meyer, M.D. and Christine Kovner, M.D.

Check Your Medicines: Tips for Taking Medicines Safely: This short DVD provides patients with five simple steps for taking their medications safely and correctly, thus avoiding medication errors. Experts featured include, Carolyn Clancy,M.D., Robert Muscalus, M.D., Gregg Meyer, and David Bates, M.D.

Contact the AHRQ Clearinghouse for your free copy of the combined DVD by sending an e-mail to requesting AHRQ Publication Number 07-M025-DVD.

*Your medical care might come from a doctor, nurse, physician assistant, or another kind of clinician or health care practitioner. To keep it simple, in this document we use the term "doctor" to refer to any of these professionals with whom you might interact.

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