doctor talking to female patient

5 Questions to Ask Your Oncologist

The words, “You have cancer,” can bring up many emotions, thoughts, insecurities, or maybe nothing at all. While some newly diagnosed patients are immediately scared and sad, others may experience denial, or mental numbness. Regardless of how someone may react, getting a cancer diagnosis is daunting, which makes it even more important to understand what your disease is, what you are about to go through, and more.

Sometimes when we are given the opportunity to ask questions, we can’t think of any, at least until a few hours or even days later. To help you, we’ve put together a list of five basic questions you should ask your oncologist about your cancer:

1. What Exact Kind of Cancer Do I Have?

Chances are, you’ll do a ton of research on your type of cancer—how common it is, what are the chances of survival, and more. You want to make sure that you are getting the most beneficial and correct information as possible, which can come from your oncologist. You should also know because the type of cancer you have determines the next step in treatment.

2. What Stage Is My Cancer In?

The stage is the extent of a cancer in your body. It is usually based on the size of the tumor and whether it has spread. Again, this will determine how aggressive your treatment should be. It also helps you understand how serious the disease is.

3. What Are My Treatment Options?

Chemotherapy, radiation, surgery – what is right for you? Your physician will review your case and create a treatment plan based on the type and stage of your cancer. You should know what all of your options are before making a decision on how to proceed.

4. What Do I Need to Do to Prepare for My Treatment?

Your cancer care team should go over everything you need to do before you start treatment, whether it is surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation. However, if you don’t quite understand the instructions, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification.

5. How Can I Cope with This?

Navigating cancer is not easy, and it can be stressful and emotional. You may be scared, angry, worried, and more. All of this is normal, and support groups are available for patients, family members, caregivers, loved ones. Ask your cancer care team about support group and behavioral medicine services. You can find a list of support groups here.

To learn more about cancer and cancer treatment options, visit the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center online or call 412-647-2811 to schedule an appointment.