Self-Advocacy Improves Patient Quality of Life

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Self-Advocacy Improves Patient Quality of Life


For cancer patients, regardless of disease site or stage, becoming a self-advocate is vital.

Self-advocates are educated cancer consumers/patients who proactively impact their quality of life and the health care they receive. Becoming a self-advocate means empowering yourself to ask questions, even difficult ones, of the members of your medical team to ensure you get the best possible physical, emotional and mental health treatment, and to give yourself a sense of stability and control during a situation where it is easy and normal to feel out of control.

Ellen Stovall, a cancer survivor and former president and CEO of the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, and Elizabeth Johns Clark, PhD, MSW, have identified and written about some of the important reasons for self-advocacy. Their list includes:

  • Advocacy gives you some stability and a feeling of regaining some control in your life.
  • Advocacy is confidence building in the way it helps you face challenges that seem insurmountable.
  • Advocacy is a way of reaching out to others. It can be as simple as asking your doctor or nurse for the name of someone to talk with who has survived your particular type of cancer.
  • Advocacy can improve your quality of life.
  • Advocacy for yourself may be the difference that turns feeling hopeless and helpless into feeling hopeful. Stated in another way, self-advocacy is a synonym for what some might otherwise call “control” or “empowerment.” Self-advocacy implies strength, both physical and mental. Self-advocacy requires participation in the decision-making process. Given our tremendous access to resources for information and support today, a self-advocate need not go to a medical provider and say, “What would you do,” or “I’m in your hands” or “just cure me.”
  • Commitment to shared responsibility with your medical team can contribute to the goal of physical, emotional, and mental health.

To learn more about self-advocacy, including the skills necessary to become a self-advocate, visit