What's New You've just gotten bad news from your doctor -- a diagnosis of a potentially life-changing condition -- and you're feeling confused and overwhelmed. A free new brochure and Web site from the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), www.ahrq.gov/consumer/diaginfo.htm, is meant to help. "Next Steps After Your Diagnosis: Finding Information and Support" offers guidance on where to learn more, treatment options and whether to get a second opinion. People who "take a more active role in their own care have better outcomes," said Carolyn Clancy, director of AHRQ, the government's watchdog for health care quality. But research has shown that people ask only 1.4 questions per doctor visit, she said, "and that includes questions about parking."

The Basics Don't expect advice on specific conditions such as Alzheimer's disease or breast cancer. The brochure offers more general tips, such as sample questions for a doctor's visit and a suggestion you bring a friend or relative to take notes. "It is not pushy or rude to want a second opinion," it advises. Among trustworthy sources of health information, it lists: healthfinder (www.healthfinder.gov); MedlinePlus (http://medlineplus.gov/), a service of the National Library of Medicine; and groups such as the American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association and American Cancer Society.

The Reviews Some tips are better than others: Telling someone with cancer that they have time to wait is not always true or helpful, said Ted Gansler, director of medical content for the American Cancer Society. Urging patients to prepare questions for the doc, he said, is smart. "I think that the vast majority of [doctors] would be glad to have their patients ask questions, and they'd be glad to answer them," he said. "But some of them aren't great at projecting that." The brochure is available free on the Web site or by phone at 800-358-9295.

-- Alicia Ault

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