Questions to Ask Your Doctor about a Cancer Diagnosis

What to ask when you receive a cancer diagnosis

doctor and patient consultation
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When you are diagnosed with cancer, you need answers to important questions from your doctor. But this is a time when emotions can interfere with getting that information unless you come prepared. Receiving a cancer diagnosis can make you feel a great amount of anger, frustration, and confusion. So many thoughts are running through your mind, it is easy to forget important questions and concerns that are vital to make important decisions about your care.

What to Bring with You to the Doctor's Appointment

Before your appointment, write down any questions or concerns you have in a notebook or an electronic note. Bring the notebook with you to your appointment so you don't forget any of your questions. If you prefer to use an electronic note, you could bring your cell phone, tablet or laptop with you to the appointment.

You can record your doctor's answers so you can review them later. You can take notes by hand during the appointment or on your electronic device. Some even prefer to record the conversation on your mobile phone or with a tape recorder so they can devote their full attention to what their doctor is discussing and then make notes later.

Bringing a trusted support person with you is also perfectly acceptable and often encouraged. This person can take notes and even contribute to the discussion by asking questions that perhaps you didn't think about.

11 Questions to Ask Your Doctor When You Get a Cancer Diagnosis

Many doctors say they wish their patients would bring these questions with them, but few actually do. You may find your doctor is a little surprised at how prepared you are, but don't take this as something that is unwelcome. Here are some questions that are often forgotten, but are important to ask:

  • What is the extent or stage of the cancer I have?
  • What is my prognosis?
  • What are my treatment options? What treatment(s) do you suggest?
  • Why do you favor this treatment over others?
  • When will my treatment start, and how long will it last?
  • Can I continue working? How will treatment affect daily living?
  • Would a clinical trial be appropriate for me?
  • What will happen if I choose not to have treatment?
  • How long will I have to continue regular check-ups after treatment?
  • What are the associated financial costs, and will my insurance cover the recommended treatment?
  • Would you object to me getting a second opinion?

It is important to have a physician who will take the time to address your concerns. Review the notes that you took when you get home from the appointment. Do you understand the answers? Is everything clear? Do they bring up new questions you need answered? Discuss them with a loved one and see what questions they may have.

If you have forgotten to ask any during the visit, follow up by phone or use email or electronic messaging if your doctor provides that avenue of communication. Having a physician you can communicate with makes the journey through cancer much easier.

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Article Sources

  • "Understanding Clinical Trials"Clinical U.S. National Institutes of Health. 27 September 2007.
  • "Who's Who in Cancer Care." American Cancer Society. 20 July 2000.