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What questions should I ask about my treatment?

If you or a family member have just been diagnosed with cancer, the questions that run through the mind are often a blur. Below is a list of questions from the American Cancer Society that provides a solid foundation of knowledge for you to review with your doctor(s).

  • What type of cancer do I have? What is the stage or extent of my cancer?
  • What is my prognosis, as you view it?
  • What treatment do you recommend and why?
  • What is the goal of treatment; cure or control of my symptoms?
  • What are the possible risks or side effects of treatment?
  • What are the pros and cons of my treatment?
  • Are there other treatments for me to consider?
  • How often will I need to come in for treatment or tests?
  • How long will my treatments last?
  • What if I miss a treatment?
  • Will my life change? Will I need to make changes in my work, family life, and leisure time?
  • What are the names of the drugs I will take? What are they for?
  • What other drugs or treatments may I have to take?
  • How will you know that my treatment is working?
  • Why do I need a blood test and how often?
  • If other specialists take part in my care, who will coordinate my entire treatment program?
  • What symptoms or problems should I report right away?
  • If I do not feel sick, does that mean the treatment is not working?
  • What are the chances that my cancer may recur (come back) with the treatment programs we have discussed?
  • What can I do to be ready for treatment?
  • Will I still be able to have children after treatment?
  • Are there any special foods I should or should not eat?
  • Can I drink alcoholic beverages?
  • What costs will I have?
  • What is the best time to call you if I have a question?

This is just a starting point. Keep an ongoing list of your own questions (such as how your recovery program will impact your work environment or schedule, your need for a second opinion, or the potential for a clinical trial as a treatment option) and bring them with you on each visit. More than one meeting with your doctor may be necessary to cover all of your concerns. No question is too small or trivial. Having a family member write down the answers or tape record the meeting(s) is very helpful for reviewing and comprehending the large amount of complicated information you will receive.

Remember that while information is an important weapon against cancer, people differ in the amount of information they want or need throughout the stages of diagnosis and treatment. If you feel your doctor is not providing enough information, ask more questions and do more research on your own to prompt additional questions and clarifications. Likewise, tell your doctor if you feel you are overwhelmed with too much information. You may want to come back and review the information again later.

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