Note: The companion ebook for this blog post, 7 Action Steps to Take After a Cancer Diagnosis, can be downloaded here
A client recently told me that whenever she thought back to her doctor delivering her cancer diagnosis, saying the words “I’m sorry Ms. ____, you have cancer,” she felt as if someone kicked her in the stomach. It took several weeks for her to begin to come back to normal. She admitted to being in this weird space between day-to-day reality and horrible visualization of dying a long slow death. Asking her doctor questions was the last thing on her mind. Yes, it’s hard to gather your thoughts after receiving a cancer diagnosis. However, there are important questions to ask your doctor when you have cancer and you can start with the 3 questions below.
But first, ensure you have either 1) a recording device that captures the conversation between you and your oncologist or 2) a trusted friend or family member that can assist you in writing down the answers. Now start asking those important questions!
Question #1: What cancer treatment plan do you recommend?
This is a crucial question. A cancer treatment plan clearly states the chemotherapy, immunotherapy and possibly radiation treatments you will receive. Cancer treatment plans can vary from doctor to doctor. If you decide to get a second opinion, which we strongly encourage, it may differ.
You might also be told that you qualify to receive new experimental chemotherapy or immunotherapy drugs. These drugs may be given only if you are enrolled in a cancer clinical trial. You can always speak to a clinical trials nurse or go to the drug company’s website to learn more about the experimental drug (as well, we’re always here if you need to talk to a cancer scientist to help explain the clinical trial to you).
If you decide to get a second opinion remember to bring your notes from your previous doctor so you can compare treatment plans.
Question #2: How does the cancer affect the organ (or body part) where it’s located?
You want to understand the symptoms you’ll experience during your cancer journey. How an organ or body part is affected by cancer is important because it may function poorly and affect overall body functions. For instance, lung cancer could affect your ability to breath or exercise.
When you know the cancer disease process you’ll be better able to understand the symptoms you’re experiencing and report them to your healthcare provider.
Question #3: How easy is it to treat my cancer?
This ties directly into your prognosis. Be prepared for the answer (you may not like it). Bring a trusted friend or family member with you that can provide emotional support while having this conversation. According to a recent study, patients who engaged their doctor, either themselves or through a family member or advocate, got better healthcare. They also had better health outcomes.
So when these questions to ask your doctor when you have cancer are not to be taken lightly. They are here to provide you with the tools to
- Get better healthcare
- Improve your survival chances
- Ensure you leave the doctors office empowered and ready to beat cancer
Here are More Questions to Ask Your Doctor When You Have Cancer…
The three questions above were just a start. Seek out other resources that have tons of questions that you can ask:
- The American Cancer Society has great resources here
- MD Anderson Cancer Center provides a great list of questions
- As well, Bedside Manners has a resource guide full of questions to ask your doctor when you have cancer, as well as seven action steps to take after a cancer diagnosis. You can download this free guide below.
Download the eBook 7 Action Steps to Take After a Cancer Diagnosis
To your best health!
Deanine Grace, PhD
Conquer Cancer │ Thrive │ Prevent Ready to #beatcancer? Our mission is to provide cancer patients with facts that empower them to improve their healthcare and survival chances after their diagnosis. Our science-based anticancer program focuses on cancer-fighting food and lifestyle tips. If cancer has you feeling overwhelmed we’re here to help. Sign up here for a complimentary 20 min call and leave with 2 health tips to start your journey.