Questions to Ask Your Doctor

Regular and open communication with your doctors is important in making informed decisions about your healthcare. Consider asking your doctors the questions posted here so that you can learn more about your diagnosis, treatment plan and possible side effects. Since each person’s case is unique, these questions should be viewed as a starting point in communicating with your doctors rather than a complete list. Some questions appear in more than one section because the order in which patients see specific doctors may differ.

Questions to Ask Your Doctors – for all cancers

These questions have been provided by Cancer.Net (www.cancer.net), the patient information website of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

General Information

  1. What type of cancer do I have?
  2. Where exactly is it located?
  3. What are the risk factors for this disease?
  4. Is this type of cancer caused by genetic factors? Are other members of my family at risk?
  5. How many people are diagnosed with this type of cancer each year?
  6. What lifestyle changes (diet, exercise, rest) do you recommend I make to stay as healthy as possible before, during, and after treatment?
  7. Where can I find more information about my cancer?

Symptoms

  1. What are some common symptoms or side effects of this type of cancer?
  2. How can I avoid these and/or manage them with my daily activities?
  3. Is there anything that can be done to make my symptoms or side effects better?
  4. Are there activities that may make them worse?
  5. If new symptoms or side effects arise or existing ones worsen, what should I do?

Diagnosis

  1. What diagnostic tests or procedures are necessary? How often?
  2. What information will these tests tell us?
  3. How can I prepare myself for each test or procedure?
  4. Where do I need to go to have this test?
  5. When will I get the results? How will I get the results (over the phone, at the next appointment, etc.)
  6. Can you explain my pathology report (laboratory test results) to me?
  7. If I seek a second opinion, will I have to repeat any tests or procedures?
  8. How much information about my diagnosis should I share, and at what time, with my friends and loved ones?

Staging

  1. What is the stage of my cancer? What does this mean?
  2. Has cancer spread to my lymph nodes or anywhere else?
  3. How is staging used to find out cancer treatment?
  4. What is my prognosis (chance of recovery)?

Treatment

  1. What are my treatment options?
  2. Which treatments, or combination of treatments, do you recommend? Why?
  3. What is the goal of the treatment you are recommending?
  4. What clinical trials (research studies involving people) are open to me?
  5. Who will be part of my treatment team, and what does each member do?
  6. How much experience do you (or the treatment team) have treating this type of cancer?
  7. Will I need to be hospitalized for treatment, or is this treatment done in an outpatient clinic?
  8. What is the expected timeline for my treatment plan? Do I need to be treated right away?
  9. How will this treatment affect my daily life? Will I be able to work, exercise, and perform my usual activities?
  10. What are the short-term side effects of this treatment?
  11. What long-term side effects may be associated with this cancer treatment?
  12. Will this treatment affect my fertility (ability to become pregnant or father children)?
  13. Besides treating cancer, what can be done to treat my symptoms?
  14. How can I keep myself as healthy as possible during treatment?

Clinical Trials

  1. What are clinical trials?
  2. How do clinical trials help people with cancer?
  3. Is this a treatment option for me?
  4. What happens during a clinical trial?
  5. What are the benefits and risks of participating in a clinical trial?
  6. How will I be monitored while participating in a clinical trial?
  7. What are my responsibilities during the clinical trial?
  8. Are there any costs associated with my participation in a clinical trial?
  9. Where can I learn more about clinical trials?

Support

  1. What support services are available to me? To my family?
  2. Whom should I call with questions or concerns during non-business hours?
  3. May I contact you or the nurse to talk about additional information I find?
  4. Can you recommend a social worker to help locate support services?
  5. Where can I find resources for children? For teenagers? For young adults? For older adults?
  6. If I’m worried about managing the costs related to my cancer care, who can help me with these concerns?
  7. Who handles health insurance concerns in your office?

Follow-up Care

  1. What follow-up tests do I need, and how often will I need them?
  2. Is there anything else I should be asking?

Questions to Ask Your Doctor from Cancer.net
Reprinted with permission from American Society of Clinical Oncology®.
© American Society of Clinical Oncology, 2014. All rights reserved.

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  1. […] planner also includes a listing of good questions to ask your doctor, as sourced by Cancer.Net, and a dictionary of cancer terms devised by the National Cancer […]