Questions to Ask Your Doctor

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Coping with a tumor or cancer diagnosis and learning about the various treatment options can be a stressful experience. To assist you in this process, below is a list of questions you may want to ask your physician as you consider certain treatments.

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Questions to ask before treatment

  • What type, stage and grade of tumor do I have?
  • What is the purpose of surgery/chemotherapy/radiation treatment for my type of tumor?
  • What are the risks and benefits of treatment?
  • Will I need chemotherapy, surgery or other treatments? If so, in what order will I receive these treatments?
  • Why do I need this treatment?
  • How will the treatment be given, and what will it feel like?
  • For how many weeks will I receive chemotherapy/radiation? How many treatments will I receive per week?
  • Am I healthy enough to undergo treatment?
  • What are the chances that treatment will work?
  • Can I participate in a clinical trial? If so, what is the trial testing? What are my benefits and risks?
  • What is the chance that the cancer will spread or come back if I do not receive surgery/chemotherapy/radiation treatment?
  • How should I prepare for this financially?
  • What are the available support groups  during treatment?
  • If I have questions after I leave here, who can I call?
  • Will radiation therapy or chemotherapy affect my ability to have children?
  • Do you accept my insurance?
  • How many times have you done this procedure?
  • What is the cost of this treatment?
  • Which clinicians will coordinate my care?

Questions to ask during treatment

  • Can I drive myself to and from the treatment facility?
  • Will I be able to continue my normal activities?
  • What side effects may occur from the surgery/chemotherapy/radiation and how are they managed?
  • How can I expect to feel during radiation or chemotherapy treatments, and in the weeks following therapy?
  • Do I need a special diet during or after my treatment?
  • Can I exercise?
  • Can I have sex?
  • Can I smoke or drink alcohol?
  • Will side effects change my appearance? If so, will the changes be permanent or temporary? If temporary, how long will they last?
  • Is it safe to take vitamins during treatment?
  • Will certain medications interact with others I am already taking?

Questions to ask after treatment ends

  • How and when will you know if I am in remission from cancer?
  • What are the chances that the cancer will come back?
  • How soon can I go back to my regular activities? (e.g., work, sexual activity, aerobic exercise, etc.)
  • How often do I need to return for checkups?  Will I need more labs or images?

Questions to ask about prognosis

  • What is the goal of treatment? Is it directly treating the cancer or improving my symptoms, or both?
  • What is my life expectancy? (If this is information you want to know, ask for a window and the most likely scenario.)
  • How will I feel?
  • What is my likelihood of a cure?
  • If I cannot be cured, will I live longer with treatment? How much longer?
  • Will I feel better or worse?
  • Can I receive palliative care focused on the quality of my and my family’s life during my cancer treatment?
  • What options do I have if I don’t want to continue my cancer treatment?
  • When should I think about hospice?
  • How often should we check in about my care plan?

Questions to ask about advance care planning

  • Are there things I should be doing to plan ahead?
    • Draft a will?
    • Participate in advance care planning and decide on my advance directives?
    • Choose a healthcare proxy who can speak for me, if I am unable?
    • Address financial or family legal issues?
    • Appoint a durable power of attorney for financial affairs?
    • Write notes or create DVDs for loved ones?

Questions to ask about family, psychosocial and spiritual needs

  • Will you help me talk with my children?
  • Who is available to help me cope with this situation?