Questions to Ask Your Doctors

The more involved you are the better care you will receive. You can also ask important questions of your caregivers, family and friends to help determine the roles they can best fill for you throughout your cancer journey.

Questions To Ask Your Medical Oncologist

Questions About Cancer:

  • Do you typically treat patients with my diagnosis?
  • What stage is my cancer?
  • Can you tell me if it is fast- or slow-growing?
  • Is there anything unique about my cancer that makes my prognosis better or worse?
  • Could this cancer cause a secondary problem (i.e., heart, lung or kidney damage/disease, fertility problems)?
  • Am I at risk for a second cancer?

Questions About Your Physician(s):

  • How many physicians will be involved in my care? Who are they? What are their roles?
  • Who will be in charge of coordinating my care and the rest of the physicians?
  • What other health care professionals can I expect to be involved in my care?

Questions About Tests:

  • What types of lab tests will I need?
  • Do I have to do anything special to prepare for these tests?
  • Do these tests have any side effects?
  • Will I need X-rays and scans?
  • When will I get the results from these tests?
  • What will these tests tell me about my cancer?
  • Can you explain the results of my complete blood count?
  • Are there tests for the genetic make-up of my cancer?
  • Will I benefit from having my cancer evaluated for its genetic make-up?
  • How frequently will I have tests?
  • How long after I have them will I know the results?
  • Who will call with my results, or whom should I call?
  • If I need copies of my records, scans or X-rays, who do I contact?

Questions About Your Cancer Treatment:

  • What is the standard treatment for my cancer?
  • What is the goal of treatment – to cure my cancer or stop it from growing?
  • What are my treatment options?
  • Are there any other treatments that might be appropriate for my type of cancer?
  • How can each treatment option help me achieve my goal of therapy?
  • Are there any clinical trials or research being done on my type of cancer?
  • Are there any clinical trials that are right for me?
  • Do you particularly recommend any clinical trials?
  • Am I a candidate for any trials you recommend?
  • Where can I find related research information?
  • Is there anyone else in the area that is involved that I might contact to discuss my cancer?
  • How much time do I have to make a decision about my treatment options?
  • What risks or potential side effects are associated with each treatment?
  • What treatment do you recommend? On what do you base your recommendation?
  • What are this treatment’s cure/remission rates?
  • What are the risks or benefits of the treatment that you are recommending?
  • How many patients have you treated with this treatment? What have been the results? How does this compare to other institutions?
  • What percentage of patients usually respond to this treatment?
  • Who do you recommend I talk to for a second opinion?
  • What are the names of all the drugs I will take?
  • Can I talk with another of your patients who has received this treatment?
  • How long is the entire course of the treatment?
  • How long does each treatment last?
  • How often will I be treated?
  • Where will I receive the treatment?
  • How will it be given?
  • What will it feel like to get treated?
  • Can someone accompany me to my treatment?
  • Can I drive to and from my appointments? Is parking available?
  • Can I stay alone after my treatments, or do I need to have someone stay with me?
  • Who will administer my treatments?
  • How often, during treatment, will I see a physician? The nurse?
  • Will a reduction or a delay of the recommended therapy reduce my chances of being cured?
  • Should I avoid any foods or medications or activities while I am going through treatment?
  • How will I know if the treatment is working?
  • Will there be tests during my treatment to determine if it is working?
  • What is the prognosis for my type of cancer with standard treatment?
  • What results do you expect?
  • How might a disruption in my chemotherapy dose or timing affect my results?
  • How and when will I be able to tell whether the treatment is working?
  • Are there any resources or web sites you recommend for more information?

Questions About Side Effects:

  • What possible side effects should I prepare for?
  • When might they start?
  • Will they get better or worse with more treatments?
  • How can I prepare for them or lessen their impact?
  • Are there treatments that can help relieve the side effects? What are they? Do you usually recommend or prescribe them?
  • Which risks are most serious?
  • Will I require blood transfusions? Why?
  • How can I best monitor myself for complications related to either my disease or my treatment?

Questions About Protecting Against Infection:

  • Will my type of chemotherapy put me at risk for a low white blood cell count and infection?
  • Can I help protect myself against infection right from the start of chemotherapy, instead of waiting until problems develop?
  • Am I at special risk for infection?
  • What are the signs of infection?
  • How serious is an infection?
  • How long will I be at risk for infection?
  • What should I do if I have a fever?
  • How are infections treated?

Questions About Daily Activities with Treatment:

  • How will my treatment affect my usual activities?
  • Will I be able to go to work/school?
  • Will I need to stay in the hospital?
  • Will I need someone to help me at home?
  • Will I need help taking care of my kids?
  • Are there any activities I should avoid during my chemotherapy?

Questions About What to Expect After Treatment:

  • What happens after I complete my treatment?
  • How can I best monitor myself for complications related to either my disease or my treatment?
  • What kind of lab tests will I need?
  • How frequently should I get those lab tests?
  • What types of X-rays and scans will I need?
  • How often do I need to come in for checkups?
  • When will you know if I am cured?
  • What happens if my disease comes back?

Questions About Financial Issues

  • Will the treatment require out-of-pocket expenses?
  • Is there someone in your office (or facility) who assists patients with questions about insurance? Who would that be?
  • If my insurance does not pay for a particular treatment or medication, will you recommend an alternative treatment? What if it is less effective?
  • Who can I talk to about getting treatment if I do not have insurance?
  • Who can I talk to about pharmacy assistance programs if my insurance doesn’t cover a particular medication?

Qustions About Finding Support

  • Where can I get literature about my illness?
  • Are you willing to speak to my family about my illness and treatments?
  • Where can I find out about support groups?
  • Can I speak to someone who has undergone this type of treatment?
  • Is there a social worker that I could talk with?
  • Is there a dietitian on staff if I have nutritional concerns or difficulties?
  • Do I need to be on a special diet?
  • Would you recommend any lifestyle changes?
  • Who do I call if I have a medical emergency during my treatment, or shortly afterwards?
  • What are the telephone numbers I should have in order to reach you? The nurse? The hospital?

Questions To Ask Your Radiation Oncologist:

  • What treatment(s) do you recommend? Why?
  • What treatments are available and appropriate for my diagnosis?
  • How will my treatment be given?
  • What are the cure and remission rates?
  • What results do you expect from this treatment?
  • Are there any alternatives to this treatment?
  • What are the side effects of this treatment? How can they be minimized?
  • How long is the course of treatment?
  • How often do I receive the treatment and how much time will each treatment take?
  • Where do I receive the treatment?
  • Will I be able to continue with work/school?
  • How will we know if the treatment is working?
  • Could the treatment cause other problem (heart, lung or kidney damage/disease, fertility issues)?

Questions To Ask Your Surgical Oncologist:

  • Why do I need this surgery?
  • What is the operation (procedure) that is recommended?
  • Are there any alternatives to this treatment?
  • Are there other options than doing this procedure?
  • What are the risks and benefits of this surgery?
  • Why is this procedure is necessary at this time?
  • Will you explain this procedure in simple terms?
  • Will I be an inpatient or out patient?
  • What kind of anesthesia is required?
  • Will I have drains, catheters or intravenous lines?
  • Will I need a blood transfusion? If so, can I bank my blood before surgery?
  • Are there any treatments I can have before surgery to shrink the tumor?
  • What is the anticipated outcome?
  • What is the recovery process?
  • Will I need assistance when I get home?
  • How long until I can assume normal activities?
  • What are the procedure’s cure/remission rates?
  • What is your experience with this procedure?
  • Is this procedure covered by my insurance plan?
  • What about a second opinion?

One Response to “Questions to Ask Your Doctors”

  1. Laurel September 16, 2011 at 8:08 am #

    Great list! Thanks!

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