Lung Cancer Questions to Ask Your Oncologist

Lung cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the tissues of the lungs. There are two main types of lung cancer: small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC, such as adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma). Lung cancer is the third most common type of cancer in the United States, and 1 in 16 people will develop lung cancer in their lifetime.

A lung cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming and hard to process. You may feel anxious about your treatment and have uncertainty about what the future holds. Your doctor and the rest of your cancer care team are there to provide support and answer all of your questions.

You may have a lot of questions about your lung cancer diagnosis but are not sure how or exactly what to ask. Read on for sample questions you can ask to help you better understand your diagnosis and treatment options, as well as some tips on how to talk to your oncologist (medical doctor specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer). 

Female doctor speaking with a seated male patient. Both are wearing facial coverings.

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Questions to Ask After Diagnosis

When you first get diagnosed with lung cancer, you may not know how to respond or what to ask. Once you’ve had some time to process your diagnosis, you likely have a lot of questions. It can be helpful to bring a list of your questions to your appointments.

Some questions you may want to ask your oncologist after a lung cancer diagnosis include:

  • What type of lung cancer do I have? 
  • Where in my lungs is the cancer? 
  • What stage is my cancer? 
  • Can you explain what the stage means for me and my treatment options? 
  • Has cancer metastasized (spread) anywhere else in the body? 
  • Would genetic testing be a good option for helping select treatment options? 
  • Is there support available to help me navigate insurance coverage and out-of-pocket costs for treatments? 
  • Who will be a part of my cancer care team?

Questions to Ask When Choosing a Treatment Plan

Asking the right questions when choosing a treatment plan ensures you have an active role in all of your treatment-related decisions. Questions you may want to ask your oncologist before choosing a treatment plan include: 

  • How much experience do you have treating (this type of) lung cancer? 
  • What are my treatment options? 
  • What treatments do you recommend and why? 
  • What is the goal of my treatment? Can my cancer be cured?
  • How much time do I have to make a decision on treatment? 
  • Should I get a second opinion? Do you have any recommendations of whom to see? 
  • What will the treatment be like? How long will it last? Where will it take place? 
  • How should I prepare for treatment? 

Questions to Ask During Treatment

Once you begin treatment, it’s important you understand what to expect in terms of side effects and next steps.

Consider asking your cancer care team these questions during treatment:

  • What side effects can I expect during treatment? 
  • How can I manage these side effects? 
  • What should I do if I experience new symptoms or intense side effects? 
  • How can I reach you outside of your normal office hours? 
  • Should I eat a certain diet during treatment? 
  • Are there any vitamins or dietary supplements I should take during treatment? 
  • Are there any peer support groups or mental health professionals I can reach out to if I feel depressed/anxious/overwhelmed? 
  • Can/should I exercise
  • How will we know if my treatment is working? 
  • Will I need to have tests like blood work and imaging tests? 

Questions to Ask After Treatment

Once you’ve completed treatment, it’s important to continue to stay in touch with your doctor and care team. Some questions to ask posttreatment include:

  • Will I need additional treatments or therapies
  • What follow-ups will I need after treatment (e.g., blood tests, imaging tests)?
  • Are there symptoms I should watch out for that may indicate cancer has come back? 
  • Who will be my primary contact for follow-up care? 
  • What are my options if cancer comes back
  • Are there limits on what I can do in my day-to-day life? 
  • What type of diet should I eat? Can I exercise? 
  • Are there any cancer survivor support groups I can join? 

Tips for Talking to Your Oncologist

Living with cancer and undergoing treatment can be a stressful experience. With so many uncertainties and emotions involved, you may feel unsure of how to speak with your oncologist. Here are some tips on how to talk to your doctor and care team: 

  • Be prepared: Before your appointment, make a list of your questions and any topics you want to discuss with your doctor. Try to ask open-ended questions to help you better understand your diagnosis and treatments. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification for anything you don’t understand. It can be helpful to have a support person attend your appointments with you to help you remember what is discussed. 
  • Be open and honest: Be as forthcoming as possible about your symptoms, treatment side effects, emotions, and lifestyle habits (e.g., smoking or secondhand smoke exposure). Your healthcare team is there to support you and ensure you get the best possible treatment. Being honest about your physical and emotional state of being can help your care team properly address your needs and concerns. 
  • Discuss goals and next steps: Before you leave each appointment, be sure you discuss and understand the next steps in the treatment process. This may be scheduling an imaging test or starting chemotherapy, for example. Asking your oncologist to clearly outline what comes next can help you prepare. It can also be helpful to discuss your personal goals so your doctor can create your treatment plan to help you meet those goals (e.g., returning to work quickly, attending your daughter’s graduation).  
  • Ask for support: Getting a lung cancer diagnosis can bring up a range of emotions, such as anxiety, fear, worry, and grief. You don’t have to go through this alone. Ask your care team for the support you need—they can connect you with the right people to help you navigate your care and treatment experience (e.g., counselors, financial advisers, peer support). 

Know Your Rights 

Everyone living with lung cancer and receiving medical treatment has certain rights. The Patient’s Bill of Rights, the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) were developed to protect individuals’ medical care, medical records, and decrease barriers to healthcare services and coverage.

These laws were developed to strengthen relationships between patients and healthcare providers, empower patients to take an active role in their health (e.g., making informed decisions), and give patients better protection when navigating health insurance coverage and the financial impacts of medical treatment. 

Your oncologist should be aware of your rights as a patient and serve as a trusted partner who provides compassionate, coordinated care and timely information throughout your cancer journey.

Summary 

It’s important to establish a comfortable rapport and open and honest dialogue with your oncologist and other cancer care team members. Asking the right questions, taking an active role in your treatment-related decisions, and knowing your rights as a patient with cancer can help improve both the quality of care you receive and your quality of life. 

A Word From Verywell

Getting a diagnosis of lung cancer can be an overwhelming experience. Getting support from your cancer care team, family and friends, and other individuals living with cancer can go a long way in helping you navigate the physical and emotional impact of your diagnosis and treatment plan. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What kinds of healthcare professionals are involved in lung cancer treatment?

    Your lung cancer care team will consist of many different healthcare professionals, each trained in a specialty to provide the comprehensive care you need.

    Your team may include medical and radiation oncologists, pulmonologists, thoracic surgeons, nurses, pharmacists, radiologists, dietitians, and psychologists or psychiatrists. The members of your care team will work collaboratively to give you the best care possible. 

  • Should I bring someone with me to talk to my oncologist?

    It can be hard to remember everything your doctor says at each appointment. It is helpful to bring a family member or friend with you to remind you of the questions you want to ask, remember what the doctor said, take notes for you, and provide emotional support during and after your appointment.

  • How can I be sure my oncologist has my best interests in mind?

    Your relationships with your oncologist should be built on open communication and trust. It’s important that you feel comfortable with and supported by your doctor to have an open and honest rapport. Your doctor should give you the information you need and dedicate time to answer your questions so that you can make informed decisions.

    If you don’t feel heard or supported by your oncologist, it’s okay to seek a second opinion or ask the hospital to provide you with a different oncologist.

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7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Lung Cancer Research Foundation. Lung cancer facts 2022.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lung cancer statistics.

  4. American Cancer Society. Questions to ask about lung cancer.

  5. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Your rights under HIPAA.

  6. American Cancer Society. Patient bill of rights.

  7. American Lung Association. Your lung cancer team. Updated October 2021.