Chemotherapy: Questions to Ask Your Doctor

Medical Author: Melissa Stöppler, MD
Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD

Advanced preparation and education about chemotherapy can help relieve some of the stress and confusion that many people feel when faced with treatment for cancer. If you're about to begin chemotherapy, these questions can serve as a guide to help you discuss treatment with your doctor.

    1. Is chemotherapy the best choice of treatment for my condition? What is the usual standard of care for people with the type of cancer that I have? Are there alternatives to chemotherapy? Will the chemotherapy be performed in conjunction with other treatments like radiation therapy or surgery?

    2. Are there clinical trials or experimental treatments available for the type of cancer that I have?

    3. What drugs will I be receiving? How was/were these drug(s) chosen? How will each drug be given (intravenously, orally, by injection, or otherwise)?

    4. How many treatments will I receive? What is the treatment schedule? Where do I go to receive treatment?

    5. How long should I plan on being at the treatment center? Can I have someone with me during the administration of the drugs? Is there a TV or radio in the room? Can I bring a DVD player, iPod, or other entertainment device? What else should I plan on bringing to the treatment center?

    6. What are the side effects of the drugs I will be receiving? Will these side effects develop immediately or after a period of time? How should I manage the side effects? Are there medications which may help relieve some of the side effects? Are there any side effects that I should report immediately? Are there any long-term side effects?

    7. If I have unusual or severe side effects, or have questions about the treatment, whom should I call? What do I do if I have questions or problems after normal office hours?

    8. How will I feel after the treatment and between treatments? Can I work or carry on normal daily activities? Will I need to arrange for someone to help me at home? Are there certain activities or situations (such as being around people with infections or colds) that I should avoid?

    9. Can I take my other prescription or nonprescription medications while I am receiving chemotherapy?

    10. Do you have any written information about the treatment that I can take with me to read and share with family and friends?

    11. Does my insurance cover the cost of treatment? Will there be a co-payment required at each treatment visit?

    12. Are there support groups or counseling services available if I feel that I would benefit from these services?

    13. What is the goal of the treatment? What proportion of people like me responds to treatment and for how long? When will the effects of the treatment be evaluated? How will you decide if the treatment is working? What are the alternatives if the treatment is not effective?

Last Editorial Review: 10/16/2006