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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). PDF 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.

*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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