Questions to Ask Your Doctor After a Cancer Diagnosis

Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

1. What type of cancer do I have? How was the diagnosis established? Are there any other diagnostic tests that could provide useful information?

2. What is the extent of spread (stage) of the cancer? To what extent does the stage of the cancer influence the treatment options?

3. Should I get a second opinion about either the diagnosis or the treatment plan? Can you recommend someone who could provide a second opinion?

4. What are the treatment options? How do you decide among the different options? Are there investigational treatments or clinical trials available for this type of cancer?

5. How much is known about the type of cancer that I have? How common is this cancer and the type of treatment I am to receive? Would I be better off being treated in a more specialized center?

6. What is your experience in treating this type of cancer? What have been the results of this treatment, in your experience?

7. How much time should I take to make a decision about treatment?

8. What is the goal of treatment (for example, to completely eradicate the tumor, to reduce the size of the tumor, to alleviate symptoms)?

9. How often must I receive treatment? How will I feel after treatment? If there will be side effects of treatment, are there any medications that can help prevent or lessen the severity of these? How soon can I return to normal activities after treatment?

10. Does the treatment require hospitalization? Can family members be present with me during treatment? Will I be able to drive afterward? Will it be necessary for someone to stay with me?

11. Who will coordinate my treatment plan if different facilities or hospital departments are involved? How many different doctors will be involved in my treatment? Whom should I contact with questions about appointments, billing, etc.?

12. Is the proposed treatment covered by my insurance plan? Will I be required to make any payments up-front?

13. How will you decide whether the treatment is effective? How long will it take to see any results? What kind of follow-up visits will be necessary, and how frequent should these be?

14. Can you recommend any resources that I can read to learn more about the cancer or its treatment?

15. Are there patient support groups or support services available?

16. Should I continue to take my prescription medications during treatment? Are there any dietary restrictions during treatment? Are lifestyle modifications necessary or recommended?

17. Are there any specific signs or symptoms I should watch for following treatment?

18. How can I best contact you if I have a question? What should I do in case of an emergency medical situation?


Last Editorial Review: 7/29/2008