Questions To Ask Your Oncologist
Once you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, you will meet with several cancer specialists, usually a plastic or oncological surgeon and an oncologist, depending upon your particular diagnosis.
One vitally important thing for you to keep in mind when you meet with your doctors after the biopsy is DON’T GO ALONE! Not because you have anything to fear from them, but because you will – at some point – feel overwhelmed and confused by all of the new words and information coming at you. A feeling of disbelief is common, of being overwhelmed, and having a list of questions to ask can be very empowering and helpful, especially when faced with an expert who is telling us what we need to do to get on the road to healing from breast cancer.
My Best Advice – 3 Things To Do When Going To See Your Oncologist For The First Time:
- Take someone with you – a trusted relative or close friend. I can’t stress the importance of this enough. You might think you’ve got it all under control, but I guarantee you at some point you are going to be overwhelmed with information and stop listening. Another set of ears to take notes and/or ask questions is invaluable.
- Take something to record the conversation with so you can replay it later. You will never be able to take sufficient notes and words/phrases are often forgotten or remembered poorly.
- Take the following list of questions to your appointment with your oncologist.
Here Are The Questions You Will Want To Ask:
- What type of breast cancer do I have?
- Where exactly is it located? (if you don’t know)
- Can you explain my pathology report (laboratory test results) to me? (make sure you get a copy of your report as you may need it again)
- What is the stage of my cancer? What does this mean?
- Has the cancer spread to my lymph nodes or anywhere else?
- Is the tumor fueled by hormones?
- What is my prognosis (chance of recovery)?
- How much experience do you have treating this type of cancer?
- What are my treatment options (or do I require further tests)?
- Why are you recommending this therapy for me – what exactly will it do for me?
- What are the chances that my cancer could come back after this treatment?
- Will I need to be hospitalized for treatment, or is this treatment done in an outpatient clinic?
- What is the expected timeline for my treatment plan? Do I need to be treated right away?
- What are the short term side effects of this therapy?
- What long-term side effects have been typical with this cancer treatment? (Oh, how I wish I had asked that question!)
- How can I best manage any side effects – any activities or foods that will help?
- What lifestyle changes (diet, exercise, rest) do you recommend I make to stay as healthy as possible before, during, and after treatment? (If they don’t have any suggestions, please use my website as a resource because all of these things DO matter.)
- What are the risks of the therapy you are recommending?
- Are there other ways to treat my breast cancer?
- Are there any clinical trials (research studies involving people) open to me? (if you want that)
- If chemotherapy is recommended: Where will I need to go for my infusions?
- How long will the treatment last?
- Will I need to worry about premature menopause and infertility?
- What about lymphedema?
- Are there any vitamins or supplements I should avoid taking during my treatments and, if so, why?
- Whom should I call with questions or concerns during non-business hours? (because they WILL come up!)
- If I’m worried about managing the costs related to my treatments, is there anyone who can help me with these concerns?
- Are you aware of any support groups in this area that I could join? (if you want that)
- Can you suggest a mental health professional I can see if I start to feel depressed, overwhelmed or distressed?
- How will I know if the cancer has come back? What should I watch for?
If your treatment involves surgery, see my article Prepare for Breast Surgery: 14 Questions To Ask Your Surgeon.
Don’t be scared. You can do this. Breathe. Talk to a friend. Punch a pillow. Email me if you need someone to talk to (just hit the Contact button above).
I send my love to everyone taking this journey right now. If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, and/or “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark Breast Health Coach) and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.
Excellent article Marnie! I wish we would have read it before my wife’s diagnosis. You’re exactly right. She just went numb and stopped hearing everything the doctors said. When she came home, she just said, “I think I have cancer”. It would have been so much better if she had a trusted advocate with here. Thanks for sharing this.
This is so often the case, I hear about it all the time, hence the article. Thanks for your comment, much appreciated. Give Debora my love!