What to Ask Your Doctor When You're Diagnosed with Cancer

No one ever expects to hear that they have been diagnosed with cancer. But unfortunately, healthcare providers must break this news to millions of people every year. It can be hard to think straight after receiving such devastating news, but it’s important to pull yourself together so you can get the information you need to beat cancer. Here are the questions you should ask your doctor when you’re diagnosed with cancer: 

What is the exact type of cancer that I have?

This seems like an obvious question, but many people forget to ask it because they dive right into the more complex questions. Start the conversation with your doctor by asking him or her to repeat the name of the exact type of cancer you have been diagnosed with. Be sure to write down the name along with the stage of cancer so you can research it once you get home.

Has the cancer spread to other parts of my body? If so, where?

Cancer starts to grow in one location, but it can spread to other parts of the body through either the bloodstream or lymph system. If a cancer has spread, or metastasized, it will cause more severe symptoms and become more difficult to treat. For this reason, it’s important to immediately find out if your cancer has spread. 

What are my treatment options?

Many people think that undergoing chemotherapy is the only way to treat cancer, but that’s not the case. It’s true that chemotherapy is one of the most common cancer treatments, but other treatments may be more effective for certain patients. For example, it is possible for doctors to surgically remove cancerous tumors that are only found in one part of the body. If the procedure is a success, these patients may never need to undergo further treatment. 

It’s important to talk about treatment options with your doctor as soon as possible. Ask about the side effects, cost, and success rate of each option so you have the information you need to decide what’s best for you.

What are my chances of survival?

This is perhaps the hardest question to ask your doctor, but it’s also the most important. You should never avoid asking this question simply because you are terrified to hear the answer. Everyone who has been diagnosed with cancer needs to know how likely it is that they will survive. Without this information, it’s impossible to make decisions regarding treatment.

Do you have experience treating this type of cancer?

You must see a doctor that has plenty of experience treating--and helping patients beat--the type of cancer you are suffering from. Therefore, it is important to ask this question immediately after being diagnosed. If your doctor does not have experience with this particular type of cancer, ask him or her to recommend specialists that can help. You’re not going to hurt your doctor’s feelings by going to a specialist--healthcare providers understand that cancer patients want to receive the best treatment possible.

Should I make any lifestyle changes?

Ask your doctor if it’s necessary to make any lifestyle changes to improve your chances of survival. For example, a doctor may recommend changing your diet or exercising more to keep your body strong and healthy during treatment. Small lifestyle changes like these can have a major impact on your recovery, so pay close attention to these recommendations.

These are the basic topics that should be addressed immediately after a cancer diagnosis. Don’t be afraid to ask more questions as they arise throughout your treatment and recovery. Remember, knowledge is power in the fight against cancer!