Questions for Your Doctor

Cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy usually have more than one doctor. Indeed, a medical team consisting of physicians, physician assistants, nurses, nurse practitioners, psychologists, and others may be involved. They know that chemotherapy is unfamiliar for most people and that they should be available for questions about the process and what the patient will experience. Don’t be embarrassed about asking any questions. They have heard it before.

The Cancer Prevention and Treatment Fund reports researchers have found patients who ask three or more questions of their oncologists are more confident of decisions they have to make.

Write down any specific questions you have and feel free to bring a pad and paper with you to meetings. Some questions you may wish to consider:

1) Which chemotherapy drugs are I am going to be given?

2) If there more than one chemotherapy drug (combination chemotherapy), what is the reason for selecting the specific agents?

3) Will I get any chemoprotective drugs?

4) Where will I be given the drugs? At the clinic or doctors’ office or hospital? Is there any way I can get the treatment at home?

5) How often will I get the treatment and how long will the regimen last?

6) How will the doctor know if the chemotherapy worked?

7) Will I probably need a second course of chemotherapy? When will we know if I need another course?

8) What kind of side effects can I expect?

9) Are there ways to stop the side effects from getting too bad? (e.g. Many chemotherapy patients are given anti-anemia drugs.)

10) If this chemotherapy regimen doesn’t work, will the doctor change it?

11) Will I get surgery or radiation in addition to the chemotherapy? Before, after, or during?

12) Can I talk to someone else who has had the same chemotherapy regimen? (Talking to another patient like you helps many.)

13) Are the chemotherapy drugs dangerous to my family and friends?

14) Is there any chance this chemotherapy will cause another case of cancer in my body?

15) After my treatment, will I get maintenance chemotherapy?

The American Cancer Society has a page on suggested questions to ask before giving permission for treatment.

(Remember, cancer treatment is complex.  Don’t try to do it yourself.)