Questions to Ask Your Doctor

By Elizabeth Falkenberg, M.D., radiation oncologist at Alliance Cancer Care

A new cancer diagnosis is frightening and most patients do not know what to expect.  Hearing the word “cancer” will likely start your thoughts racing with questions like, “Will I die? What will my family do? What is the first step in treatment?” Then, a whirlwind of tests and doctor’s appointments often adds to your anxiety, stress, and often confusion.

One of the most important steps you can take in your care is asking the right questions to your doctor to educate yourself and become informed.  This can help to relieve your stress and allow you to gain control of your cancer journey.

Here are some key questions to ask your doctor:

  1. What type of cancer do I have? Can I have a copy of my pathology report? Is there information I can read or a particular website that can give my family and me more information about my cancer?
  2. Exactly where in my body is my cancer located? Has this cancer spread to any other areas? What is the stage of my cancer? What is the prognosis?
  3. Will I need surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a combination? What is the game plan for treating this cancer? What options do I have for different treatments?

If you need chemotherapy or radiation therapy:

  1. How long will each treatment last? How often will I receive treatment? How many treatments will I need? What is the goal of my treatments?
  2. Will I be able to work during treatments?
  3. What are the main side effects of treatment? Is there anything I can do to prevent side effects or help keep myself healthy during treatments?
  4. What number should I call or whom should I email with questions about my treatments? Is there an emergency phone number?

Other general questions:

  1. Do I need genetic testing?
  2. Whom should I speak with about my insurance questions?
  3. Is there a social worker to help me with support services?

Communication with your cancer care team is very important. It is always helpful to have someone else with you to take notes during an appointment. We encourage you to bring written questions to your appointments so you can have your questions answered. Most side effects can be managed if you know what to expect. Once you learn more information about your cancer and your treatment plan, hopefully, your fear and stress will decrease and you will be more successful in navigating through your treatment process.

If you have questions about your cancer diagnosis or treatment options, please reach out to our team of experts today.