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Cancer Patients' Questions

A graphic of a doctor holding out a holographic image saying "Ask Your Doctor"

Questions cancer patients have.

When a patient is diagnosed with cancer, they typically experience a flood of emotions followed by a lot of questions. During your first visit, your oncologist will be able to answer many questions about what kind of cancer you have, and where it is located. You will also learn about how your cancer is staged (additional diagnostic tests may be needed) and what that means. Treatment options are discussed, as well as what the goals of your treatment are.

Patients often want to know why so many tests are needed and how their oncologist will know if the treatment is working. Your oncologist will explain the proposed schedule for treatment, including the need for any additional testing, and he/she will also advise you about the potential risks and side effects.

Most patients ask to start treatment right away, but your oncologist will explain why sometimes starting treatment will need to be delayed. Pertinent information needs to be thoroughly reviewed and considered, and proper insurance authorization is obtained. This will ensure that the patient receives the proper treatment plan and the best care possible.

Patients have a choice in their care.

It is important for patients to know that they do have choices in their care, including making the choice to not proceed with treatment. Open and honest communication is vital between the patient, oncologist and all members of the care team. Treatment will not be initiated until the patient has been thoroughly educated and informed consent has been obtained.

Write it down.

If possible, it is nice for the patient to bring a family member or friend to your appointments be a second set of ears. It is an emotional time for the patient, and it’s not uncommon to forget a lot of the information, especially during in the first few appointments. It’s a good idea to take notes, so that you can refer to them later to answer questions you may have.

It’s also a good idea to write down any questions or concerns you have prior to meeting with your oncologist so that he/she can make sure they have addressed your concerns.

Other common questions include:

  • Can I continue all my current medications?
  • Are there dietary restrictions or vitamins/supplements I should take or avoid?
  • Will this affect my ability to work?
  • Will I need to be in the hospital to receive treatment?
  • How will my treatment affect my daily activities and is there anything I should avoid or begin doing?
  • Can I get vaccinations before or during treatment? (Hepatitis C, Shingles, Pneumonia, Influenza)
  • Can I have non-cancer related surgery (i.e. knee or hip surgery) while on treatment?
  • Should I see a dentist prior to starting treatment?
  • How often do I need to schedule appointments?
  • What type of follow up can I expect during and once treatment is completed?
  • Should I get a second opinion?
  • Are clinical trials available?