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Deciding on Your Cancer Treatment: Questions to Ask Your Doctor

When people are first diagnosed with cancer, they have many questions. However, when actually sitting in the doctor’s office, it’s very easy to forget the questions you have about cancer diagnosis and its treatment.

Make the most of your appointment: Go in prepared. To make it a little easier, here’s a list of questions you can ask your doctor about your condition and cancer treatments. 

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Call 1-800-4-CANCER For more information, U.S. residents may call the National Cancer Institute's (NCI's) Cancer Information Service toll-free at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237) Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Eastern Time. A trained Cancer Information Specialist is available to answer your questions. Chat online The NCI's LiveHelp® online chat service provides Internet users with the ability to chat online with an Information Specialist. The...

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  1. What kind of cancer do I have? What stage is it?
  2. How common is my cancer?
  3. What is my prognosis?
  4. What are my cancer treatment options?
  5. Are these cancer treatments proven or experimental?
  6. Are these cancer treatments covered by insurance?
  7. What should I expect from my cancer treatment? How long will it take? How will I feel?
  8. What side effects or complications could I face from my cancer treatment?
  9. In addition to treatment for cancer, will I also need to take other medicines? If so, what and for how long?
  10. Should I make any changes to my diet or lifestyle before starting cancer treatment?

You’ll also want to ask your cancer doctor about his or her qualifications. This is really an audition: Is this doctor the right person to treat you? Here are some questions to ask before you partner with a doctor in your cancer treatment.
 

  1. How much experience do you have in treating people with my type of cancer?
  2. How many people with my cancer have you treated in the past year?
  3. Are you board certified? If so, in what specialty or subspecialty?
  4. Do you have other relevant qualifications?
  5. Do you work closely with other specialists and health care providers who could be part of my cancer treatment team?
  6. What hospitals do you work with?
  7. Are clinical trials available at this medical center? If not, are they available in this area?
  8. Can you recommend another doctor for a second opinion?

You may feel awkward about quizzing your doctor about his or her experience. But doctors expect these questions and even welcome them. Doctors want their patients to feel comfortable and confident in their care, not intimidated.

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