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What to Ask Your Oncologist

Doctor Q&A

Questions to Ask Your Medical Oncologist

It is important for patients to have open, honest conversations with their oncologist in order to make informed decisions about cancer care. The days and weeks following a cancer diagnosis are so full of questions that patients may wonder if they’re asking the right questions and making the most of their time with each medical professional.

As a medical oncologist at AdventHealth Shawnee Mission, I’ve helped patients navigate their cancer diagnosis by answering a lot of those initial questions. I can promise when it comes to cancer, no question is insignificant. Following is a list of particularly important questions for newly diagnosed patients to consider asking during their consultation.

What are the goals of treatment? Can this cancer be cured?

It is important to set the goals of treatment early in the course of the cancer management plan. This opens up a discussion about the limitations of treatment and the patient’s willingness to accept potential impacts of side effects to achieve better results.

How long am I going to live?

Longevity after cancer diagnosis depends on what stage the cancer is in. Advanced cancer can be an incurable illness with certain estimates of life expectancy. Patients sometimes have personal goals that might be facilitated by knowing average survival expectations. With advanced cancers, it’s a good idea to weigh the pros and cons of seeking treatment vs. not seeking treatment.

Why did I get this cancer? Am I going to pass this cancer to my kids?

While we don’t always know the root cause of an individual’s cancer diagnosis, we do know that some cancers develop from certain environmental or behavioral triggers, such as chronic chemicals exposure or cigarette smoking. Others have genetic roots. Understanding the root cause of a cancer diagnosis will help patients adopt screening or preventive measures for themselves and their families.

What diet should I follow to help fight this cancer?

Nutrition is very important to maintain patient health and promote the effectiveness of cancer therapy. There are also dietary factors that may increase side effects of treatment and create treatment-related complications. It’s a good idea for patients to have a conversation about their dietary habits and see if any changes should be considered.

Will I be able to continue to work during cancer treatment?

Some patients are able to continue working during treatment, while others do not feel up to the task. Because every situation is different, patients should have a discussion with their oncologist about their work duties and what to expect during treatment. This information will allow the patient and their loved ones to adjust their schedules and to plan accordingly.

Can I travel?

Travel is often an important part of a patient’s life plans. Rest assured that adjustments to the treatment plan and schedule can potentially be made to accommodate travel plans. Patients should discuss their travel goals with their oncologist to see if and how these adjustments can be made.

Should I get a second opinion?

With increasing treatment options, getting more than one opinion can be an important part of the decision-making process for some patients. Don’t worry about offending a doctor by seeking a second opinion—it’s common for patients to meet with multiple doctors before deciding on a treatment plan.

At AdventHealth Cancer Center Shawnee Mission, we treat many types of cancer, including gynecologic cancers, head and neck cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer and more. As Kansas City’s only certified member of MD Anderson Cancer Network®, a program of MD Anderson Cancer Center, AdventHealth Shawnee Mission is raising the standard of cancer care. Our network of oncologists, cancer surgeons, nurses, chaplains and financial navigators is here to help you find confidence and healing in mind, body and spirit.