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Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Cancer

Ovarian cancer is one of the hardest to detect early


Second Opinion

The National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society suggest the following questions as among those to ask your doctor:

Before diagnosis:

  • I've noticed these symptoms: …   What medical tests should I take to get an accurate diagnosis?

 About the tests:

    ◦    What kinds of tests will I have?
    ◦    What do you expect to find out from these tests?
    ◦    When will I know the results?
    ◦    Do I have to do anything special to prepare for any of the tests?
    ◦    Do these tests have any side effects or risks?
    ◦    Will I need more tests later?

After a diagnosis of cancer:

  • What kind of cancer do I have?
  • What are the cell type, grade and stage of my cancer and what does that mean in my case?
  • What is the stage of my disease? Has the cancer spread from the ovaries? If so, to where?
  • What are my treatment choices? Do you recommend chemotherapy for me? Why?
  • Would a clinical trial be appropriate for me?
  • Will I need more than one kind of treatment?
  • What are the expected benefits of each kind of treatment?
  • What are the risks and possible side effects of each treatment? What can we do to control side effects? Will they go away after treatment ends?
  • Will I lose my hair? If so, what can I do about it?
  • What can I do to prepare for treatment?
  • Will I need to stay in the hospital? If so, for how long?
  • What is the treatment likely to cost? Will my insurance cover the cost?
  • How will treatment affect my normal activities?
  • Will treatment cause me to go through an early menopause?
  • Will I be able to get pregnant and have children after treatment?
  • How often should I have checkups after treatment?
  • What are the chances my cancer will come back with the treatment we have discussed?
  • Should I follow a special diet?
  • What is my expected prognosis, based on my cancer as you view it?
  • What do I tell my children, husband, parents and other family members?

Before surgery:

  • What kind of surgery do you recommend for me? Will lymph nodes and other tissues be removed? Why?
  • How soon will I know the results from the pathology report? Who will explain them to me?
  • How will I feel after surgery?
  • If I have pain, how will it be controlled?
  • How long will I be in the hospital?
  • Will I have any long-term effects because of this surgery?
  • Will the surgery affect my sex life?

Before chemotherapy:

  • When will treatment start? When will it end? How often will I have treatment?
  • Which drug or drugs will I have?
  • How do the drugs work?
  • Do you recommend both IV and IP (intraperitoneal) chemotherapy for me? Why?
  • What are the expected benefits of the treatment?
  • What are the risks of the treatment? What side effects might I have?
  • Can I prevent or treat any of these side effects? How?
  • How much will it cost? Will my health insurance pay for all of the treatment?

Before using complementary medicine:

  • What benefits can I expect from this approach?
  • What are its risks?
  • Do the expected benefits outweigh the risks?
  • What side effects should I watch for?
  • Will the approach change the way my cancer treatment works? Could this be harmful?
  • Is this approach under study in a clinical trial?
  • How much will it cost? Will my health insurance pay for this approach?
  • Can you refer me to a complementary medicine practitioner?

This article reprinted with permission from Second Opinion, a public television health program hosted by Dr. Peter Salgo and produced by WXXI (Rochester, N.Y.),  West 175 and the University of Rochester Medical Center.

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