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Advance Care Planning

Advance Care Planning

A cancer diagnosis can be one of the toughest challenges you and your loved ones will ever face. While many people live for years beyond treatment, each of us should create a plan in advance, in case of a medical emergency or circumstance that might leave us unable to make our own healthcare decisions.

Thinking about and specifying the things that are important in your life can help guide your care team and your loved ones to carry out your preferences both now and in the future.

Advance care planning helps you understand treatment options and to choose what you want or do not want in the way of medical care now and/or if circumstances change.

Completing Your Advance Directive Will: 

  • Ensure your medical team understands your wishes and what is most important to you
  • Allow us to individualize and personalize your care
  • Ensure your voice is heard by everyone involved in your healthcare
  • Ensure control over your own health care decisions is always continued
  • Identify the person or people you trust who can speak for you if you cannot speak for yourself
  • Ease the burden of decision-making for those you love if there are difficult circumstances

Have You Considered These Important Issues?

  • Is your medical care plan compatible with your personal goals, values, and religious beliefs? Essentially – if you want to receive care that prolongs your life, make sure you have shared that information. Also, if there is a point when you would no longer wish to receive medical treatments for your condition, that should be made known as well.
  • Are there aggressive or life-prolonging medical interventions you would or would not want? 
  • Have you made your preferences clear to your doctor and loved ones?
  • Are your wishes recorded in writing? 
  • Have you chosen a health care agent (called a proxy or surrogate decision-maker) who will agree to be your representative and can be trusted to honor your wishes? This person will only be able to speak for you if you are unable to speak for yourself. 


Advance care planning is a standard part of every treatment plan, even if your cancer is highly treatable. 

At Virginia Oncology Associates, we encourage all patients to think about what is most important to them and to talk with loved ones. We can assist you with writing down your decisions in a legal document called an Advance Directive or Health Care Directive. This legal document allows you to outline how you’d like to be cared for in certain situations and so importantly, name a medical power of attorney whom you would authorize and trust to make decisions on your behalf if you cannot speak for yourself. We believe the highest quality of care is patient-centered and helps form a partnership between you and your medical team.

Our Oncology Social Workers or Palliative Care Coordinator can help you create an advance directive document that matches your preferences. Once completed, they can assist you in getting the form legally signed, copied, and distributed to the doctors, clinics, and hospitals that provide your care.

Advance care planning is something all adults should do today to direct the care that’s best for them in the future. Please contact VOA Social Work or Palliative Care for more information or assistance. You may also find information from the National Institute on Aging helpful.

For peace of mind today and tomorrow, we encourage you and your family to participate in advance care planning.