Questions to Ask Your Doctor


A new diagnosis is a stressful time; shock, anger, and frustration are natural reactions. This often makes it difficult to think straight and understand or assess all of the new information you are receiving.

It is important to be an active participant in your treatment; you need to understand your diagnosis and any potential treatment options for your stage of cancer, not just the standard treatment. Before you undergo any treatment do your homework. It can be helpful to discuss your stage and treatment plans with other patients who have had similar experiences.

It is often difficult to think of the right questions while you are in an appointment, so you should write them down prior to meeting with your doctor and bring them in with you. Also, ask your doctors for copies of all of your medical reports and begin a binder for you records. You will be surprised how often you may need them! It is important to bring a family member or a friend to your appointments who can take notes during the visit and allow you to ask questions and discuss your treatment plan.

Questions to Ask During:
Dermatology Appointment
Before Tests
Before Your Biopsy
Diagnosis
Treatment
Surgery
Before Radiation
Chemotherapy
Immunotherapy/Biological Therapy
Clinical Trials

Dermatology Appointment

  • Do you think this mole is melanoma?
  • What type of biopsy will you do and why?
  • Will you remove the entire tumour?
  • Do I need a skin graft?
  • Are there side effects and how long will they last?
  • Will I be given a local or general anesthesia during the procedure?
  • How soon will I be given the results of the biopsy and who will discuss them with me?
  • What should I do to avoid the sun?

 

Before Tests

    • What tests do you suggest for me?
    • Where will the tests take place? Do I need to go to the hospital?
    • How long do the tests take?
    • Will it hurt? Will I be given a local anesthetic?
    • What happens if I’m pregnant?
    • Do I need to prepare for tests?
    • Do I need to bring a list of my medications?
    • Can I bring someone with me?
    • How long does it take to recover? Do I need any medication after the tests?
    • When will I know the results? Who will explain them to me?
    • If a biopsy is done, will I get a copy of the pathology report?
    • If I have cancer, who will talk with me about the next steps? When?

 

Questions to Ask Before Your Biopsy

    • What type of biopsy do you suggest for me?
    • How will you perform the biopsy?
    • Where will the biopsy be done? In your office?
    • How long does a biopsy take?
    • Will the biopsy hurt?
    • Will you remove the entire growth?
    • What are the risks of a biopsy? What about infection or bleeding?
    • Will the biopsy leave a scar? What will it look like?
    • When will I find out the results?
    • If I have cancer, who will talk to me about treatment?

 

Diagnosis

  • How thick is the tumour?
  • Has the cancer spread and if so, how far?
  • Are there more tests needed and if so, what type of tests?
  • Will I need a sentinel node biopsy?
  • What are the chances that this cancer might come back?
  • Has my stage of melanoma been determined and what does that mean?
  • Can I have a copy of my pathology report?

 

Treatment

  • Teamwork is needed to treat cancer. Before treatment begins, you will meet with members of your healthcare team. They will recommend treatment options and talk to you about the choices that are available to you.
    Your healthcare team will consider:

      • the type of cancer you have
      • the stage and grade of your cancer (how far it has progressed)
      • your age
      • your general health
      • any other medical problems you might have
  • What stage is my melanoma? What is the recommended or standard treatment for my stage of melanoma?
  • Are there other potential or alternative medical treatments or surgical options for me?
  • Which treatment choice is best for me? Why?
  • Do you have experience with other melanoma patients?
  • Will you personally be managing my care or is there a team of oncologists that will follow me?
  • What are the risks and potential side effects?
  • What are the chances the treatment will be successful?
  • Will I have pain during or after treatment and how can it be controlled?
  • What can I do to be ready for the treatment?
  • Will the treatment affect my normal, daily activities and for how long?
  • What will my appointment schedule be during treatment and how often will I be seen after treatment to check for the possibility of a recurrence?
  • What is my expected prognosis?
  • Are there any treatments for my stage that are being studied? Would a clinical trial be right for me?

 

Surgery

  • What surgery do you recommend for me? Why?
  • What is involved in the surgery?
  • Do I need to stay in the hospital?
  • Will I have pain after the surgery? How will you manage my pain?
  • Am I likely to need antibiotics to prevent infection?
  • What problems do I need to watch for after surgery?
  • Will there be a scar?
  • Are there any long-term side effects?

 

Before Radiation

  • How long does treatment last?
  • How often will I have radiation?
  • Will I feel any pain?
  • What are the side effects of radiation?
  • What problems do I need to watch for after radiation?
  • Are there any long-term side effects?
  • Will I have a scar?

 

Chemotherapy

  • Why do you recommend chemotherapy for me?
  • Which medications do you recommend and why?
  • What do I need to know about the medication?
  • How long will treatment last?
  • What side effects does my chemotherapy have?
  • Are there any long-term side effects?

 

Immunotherapy/Biological Therapy

  • Why do you recommend immunotherapy/biological therapy for me?
  • How long will treatment last?
  • Do I need to go to the hospital?
  • What side effects could I experience? How will they be managed?
  • Are there any long-term side effects?

 

Clinical Trials

  • Are any clinical trials available that I could take part in?
  • What is the study purpose?
  • What tests and treatments are part of the study?
  • What does the treatment do?
  • Has the study treatment been tested before? For what types of cancer?
  • Will I know which treatment I receive?
  • What is likely to happen to me with, or without, this new treatment?
  • What are my other options? What are their benefits and risks?
  • What does taking part in the study mean to my daily life?
  • Can I expect side effects during the study? Can they be prevented or treated?
  • Does the study involve a hospital stay? If so, how often and for how long?
  • Will taking part in the study increase my chance of recovery?
  • Does the study include follow-up care?
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