Prostate Cancer Questions to Ask Your Doctor -- and Yourself
What about practical considerations of treatment?
Risks and benefits aren’t the only criteria for evaluating treatment options. There are also practical factors. Consider the choice of radiation therapy. One approach, called external beam radiation, requires going in for short treatments five days a week for 8 to 9 weeks of treatment. Radioactive seeds, by comparison, can be implanted in a simple surgical procedure that takes less than two hours. Some men would rather avoid surgery and opt for external radiation; others prefer the convenience of having radioactive seeds implanted during a single clinic visit. Talk to your doctor about what how each therapy is performed before you make your decision.
If I opt for watchful waiting, how often will I need to be monitored?
Active surveillance, also called “watchful waiting,” involves careful observation to detect any change in the cancer that would indicate it is progressing and requires more active treatment. Watchful waiting usually includes PSA tests every few months, periodic imaging studies, and repeat prostate biopsies.
Should I get a second opinion from a doctor who specializes in another approach?
Doctors who treat prostate cancer often specialize in a particular treatment approach, which inevitably influences what they recommend. A doctor who specializes in radiation oncology, for example, is likely to recommend radiation. A surgical oncologist will feel most comfortable recommending surgery. To get an unbiased view of all of your options, consider getting a second and even a third opinion before deciding on your treatment. If your doctor discourages you from getting another opinion, find another doctor.
After you’ve had an initial conversation with your doctor, there are questions that you should ask yourself. Because prostate cancer treatments can have an impact on sexual function and quality of life, it’s important to sit down to talk with your partner. Here’s what to consider:
Do I feel comfortable with my doctor?
Treatment of prostate cancer can be complicated. Even after treatment is completed, you will need follow-up care. You should feel confident that your doctor listens, understands, and provides you all the information you need. You should also have confidence in your doctor’s expertise. If you have doubts, find another doctor.
Do I understand everything I’ve been told?
Understanding your particular grade and stage of prostate cancer and making sense of complicated treatment options isn’t easy, especially at a time when you’re already under stress. If you don’t understand something your doctor has discussed with you, ask more questions. Search out reputable sources in books or on the Internet. The more you understand, the more comfortable you’ll feel with your treatment decisions.
What about my loved ones? How will my decision affect them?