Questions to Ask Your Potential Oncologist

06/18/2018

The lab reports are in. The results are not what you'd hoped for.

Now that you know you're dealing with a cancer crisis, it's time to make decisions about who will work with you and help you develop your treatment plan.

Whether you're shopping for a new car or for a new doctor, you are the consumer and get to have the final say; the choice of oncologist, treatment facility, and treatment protocol is ultimately your decision.

Just as savvy consumers of vehicles and houses seek multiple options and ask lots of questions, consumers of medical care should also ask lots of questions and expect those questions to be answered frankly and with responses they understand. The responses you receive will help you know if the doctor you're interviewing is the right fit for you.

Below are questions you can print off to take with you when you visit potential oncologists.

If at all possible, it is best to have a trusted person with you who can take notes and support you during your appointments. If you are able, record your conversations with your medical team to help spark your memory afterward.

Many doctors seem to forget that patients may not speak "medicaleze;" when your doctor uses terminology you do not understand, ask for an explanation and do not move on to the next issue until you are certain you understand what is being said.

General

  • What, precisely, is the type of cancer I've been diagnosed with?
  • Where exactly is it located?
  • What are my risks if I do not treat this cancer?
  • Is this type of cancer caused by genetic factors? Are other members of my family at risk?
  • Could my diet, environment, or stress have contributed to this cancer?
  • Is this cancer fast or slow growing; how long has it been growing inside me?
  • Where can I find more information about this type of cancer?
  • What lifestyle changes-such as diet, exercise, and rest-should I make to be healthy before, during, and after treatment?

Symptoms

  • What are the most common symptoms of this type of cancer?
  • Is there anything that can be done to ease difficult symptoms or side effects?
  • Are there activities that can worsen these symptoms?
  • If new symptoms or side effects arise, or if existing symptoms worsen, what should I do?

Diagnosis

  • What diagnostic tests have you performed? What tests are necessary?
  • What information will these tests tell us?
  • How can I prepare myself for each test or procedure?
  • When will I get results? How will the results be communicated to me?
  • Will you explain the pathology report to me in a way I can understand?
  • Is there any indication a second pathology report is necessary?
  • If I seek a second opinion, will I have to repeat any tests or procedures?
  • Are you willing to order the Oncostat Plus Chemosensitivity test for me? I would like to know which drugs will respond best to the cancer with which I've been diagnosed.
  • Will you be ordering genetic testing to make sure the drugs I'm given will not be severely toxic to me?
  • I would like to know my micronutrient status. Are you willing to order lab tests for me through SpectraCel?

Staging

  • What is the stage of my cancer? Please explain to me in terms I can understand.
  • Has cancer spread to my lymph nodes or anywhere else?
  • How is staging used to determine my cancer treatment?


Treatment

  • What are my treatment options?
  • Which treatments, or combination of treatments, do you recommend, and why?
  • What specific drugs do you recommend as part of this treatment?
  • What additional drugs might I be given?
  • How long have these treatments been in use for this type of cancer?
  • What are the side effects associated with each of these medications?
  •            Short term?      Long term?
  • Will you give me copies of the Material Safety Data Sheets on all the drugs you propose?
  • Do any of these medications carry life-threatening risks?
  • What is the goal of the treatment plan you are recommending?
  • Is this plan curative or palliative?
  • What is the recurrence rate for this type of cancer following this treatment?
  • What are the 5 and 10 year survival rates for this specific cancer?
  •          With treatment?         Without treatment?
  • Can you share studies comparing this treatment protocol to patients who did nothing?
  • If you or a loved one were given my exact diagnosis, what treatment would you pursue/recommend?
  • Who will be part of my treatment team? What does each member do?
  • How frequently does this type of cancer become resistant to chemotherapy?
  • How much experience do you and the treatment team have treating this type of cancer?
  • Will I need to be hospitalized for treatment or is this treatment done in an outpatient setting?
  • What is the expected timeline for my treatment plan?
  • How will this treatment affect my daily life? Will I be able to work, exercise, and perform my usual activities?
  • What is the likelihood of my developing a secondary cancer because of this treatment?
  • Is fractionated-dose chemotherapy an option for me? Why or why not?

Referrals

  • How many patients do you treat per year?
  • How many patients have you permanently cured of this specific cancer?
  • Will you put me in contact with patients of yours who are in remission 5 or 10 years post-treatment?

Support

  • What support services are available to me? To my Family?
  • Whom should I call with questions or concerns during non-business hours?
  • May I contact you or the nurse to talk about additional information I find?
  • Who handles health insurance concerns in your office?

Follow-up Care

  • What follow-up tests will I need? How often will I need them?

Resources: Cancer: 50 Essential Things to Do, Greg Anderson; 20 Questions for Your Oncologist, Chris Wark