Receiving a cancer diagnosis comes with an overload of information for patients. Trying to process a new reality feels overwhelming, and learning new terms and treatment information takes time. An effective way to learn is to create a list of questions to ask your oncologist as you prepare for your first oncology consultation. As you start your cancer treatment, this also helps you feel more comfortable communicating with your oncologist.
Helpful Questions to Ask Your Oncologist When You Have Cancer
There are several questions doctors ask patients during oncology appointments. During the first oncology consultation, an oncologist may ask about health history, lifestyle, and other helpful factors. The common questions doctors ask patients are designed to help them better understand their needs and provide them with the best care.
However, asking your questions can help you better communicate your needs. It also gives you a starting place for making sense of the information overload that comes with a cancer diagnosis. These are the top seven questions before starting chemo or another treatment plan.
1. What Treatments Are Available for My Type and Stage of Cancer?
This is one of the most critical questions to ask your oncologist during your first visit. Treatment options vary significantly by stage and type. For instance, a treatment for stage 4 colon cancer typically includes surgery and chemo since cancer has spread to other areas. There may be other treatments to address problems from spreading cancer, too.
A treatment plan for stage 2 colon cancer may involve surgery with or without chemo, depending on what surgeons find. If you have stage 4 cancer, it can also help to ask about palliative care options to help you cope with symptoms while you seek treatment and fight cancer.
2. Which Cancer Treatments Do You Recommend?
Doctors who want to become oncologists must complete several years of specialized training after they finish medical school. Because of this, they know how to determine the ideal treatment or treatments for your specific type and stage of cancer while also considering any other existing health issues you may have. This is valuable since the information you find on the internet about treatments is more generalized.
3. What Are the Risks and Benefits of Each Treatment?
Every treatment comes with potential mild or severe side effects. Your oncologist can tell you if there are supportive medications to deal with the adverse effects of cancer treatments that may be ideal for your stage and type. For example, some effective treatments make patients nauseous. Fortunately, several medications help combat that nausea today. Cancer treatments also often affect fertility, and there are options for storing eggs or sperm. Knowing how a treatment will potentially affect your life positively or negatively can help you make treatment decisions and develop a more precise plan.
4. Where Can I Learn More About These Treatments?
After your oncologist discusses cancer treatment plan options, you can ask for reliable resources for your research. You may discover additional answers to questions about cancer this way.
5. How Soon Do I Need To Start Treatment?
You may want a little time to learn more about treatment options. For some types of cancer in earlier stages, treatment may not start for a few weeks. It can take time to schedule surgeries or arrange treatments. However, oncologists usually recommend immediately starting treatment for more aggressive or later-stage cancers. Knowing this can help determine if you need to take time off work or make other arrangements.
6. Are There Any Clinical Trials?
There is a common myth that clinical trials are only for advanced-stage cancers. However, there are also trials in the early stages. If you are interested in clinical trials, you will likely have additional oncology questions. For example, at your oncology appointment, you may ask what the trial’s purpose is, how long it lasts, what tests or treatments are involved, and why it may or may not be better than another recommended treatment. Learning more about clinical trials will help you and your oncologist determine if you are a good fit for these opportunities.
7. How Will I Know if the Cancer Treatment Is Working?
This question may open up more information overload. Oncologists look at enzymes, proteins, and other indicators using blood, tissue, or urine samples. They also use imaging tests to monitor tumors and cancer cells. You will become more familiar with test-related terms as you progress in your treatment.
When you develop your questions about cancer, do not be afraid to ask even more questions if you think of them. Consider your oncologist your advocate in fighting cancer. You can also ask multiple oncologists if you want a second opinion on cancer treatment plans.
Verdi Oncology is committed to providing patient-centric, value-based cancer care. With help from members of our network, we are committed to improving cancer treatment for our patients and their families. Contact us to learn more about joining our network of physicians.