I’ve Been Diagnosed with Cancer, What Questions Should I Ask My Doctors?
At every stage in your journey with cancer, you are likely to have uncertainties or worries. Your doctor can help to allay some of these fears and let you know the impact that cancer treatment may have on your life.
But it’s important to communicate your questions and concerns, so your treatment team can be focused on the things that are most important to you. Before your next appointment, think about the following topics and use them to decide what questions you want to ask.
What Is Important to You?
Your doctor wants to help you have the best quality of life you can while undergoing treatment for cancer. Your treatment plan is one of the most effective ways to achieve this goal. These plans generally include regular appointments with your medical team. However, sometimes these appointments may become narrowly focused on your treatment and prognosis. You may find that you’re worried about other aspects of your life that are impacted by your treatment. It’s important to discuss these issues with your treatment team, and let them know what is important to you.
For example, you might find that the thing that upsets you most is not being able to coach your child’s soccer team, in which case you should ask your doctor whether there is any way you can alter your treatment to give you the time or energy to return to coaching. Or perhaps you have planned a vacation, and don’t know whether it will be impacted by your treatment schedule.
Although some treatments are time-sensitive, others can be safely delayed or adjusted to accommodate your needs. Rather than assuming you have to give up the things that bring value and meaning to your life due to your cancer – ask your doctor whether they can remain part of your life.
Your doctor will be able to discuss the risks and benefits of various activities and treatments with you, so you can make the decisions that are right for you. Doctors are keen to help you live a full life, even when you have cancer, but they won’t know what is important to you unless you let them know.
Are There Questions You Are Embarrassed to Ask?
Are there questions you have been putting off asking your doctor out of embarrassment? Your doctor has likely heard these questions before and won’t be shocked or surprised by them.
If, for example, you want to know whether you can still have sex during treatment, or whether it is normal for your treatment to cause sexual side effects such as dryness, lack of libido or problems with erections, go ahead and ask. Your doctor can deal with these and other personal questions sensitively and professionally.
Recording Your Doctor’s Answers to Questions
Time with your doctor is precious. It’s common for patients to forget what questions they want to ask, as well as forgetting the answers the doctor gave. Write your questions down and bring the list with you so you don’t have to worry about remembering them.
You might also find it helpful to bring another person to the appointment with you, so you can listen to the doctor while your friend or family member makes notes. Another option is to use your cell phone to record the doctor’s answers. You should always ask permission before you start recording, but generally doctors are comfortable having patients record discussions.
Maintaining open lines of communication with your medical team helps to ensure that your goals align with those of your medical team to provide you with the treatment plan that best suits your particular lifestyle and needs.
Below, find a printable pdf of additional suggested questions to ask your doctor: