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Ten Questions to Ask Your Oncologist

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Two oncology nurses offer a list a questions to ask your doctor if you're diagnosed with cancer. Their book, “The Chemotherapy Survival Guide”, provides comprehensive descriptions of how to take care of yourself after you're diagnosed with cancer. The first step is a conference with your doctor or group of doctors who will give you a treatment plan.

“Many people who are facing cancer therapy for the first time feel as if they've been dropped off behind enemy lines during a war.” This is how Judith McKay and Tamera Schacher describe that visit with the doctor(s). It may be difficult to remember all the things you would like to know more about, so these authors suggest you prepare questions ahead of time. Here are some to consider:

1. What is the goal of treatment? Ideally, we would all like to eliminate the cancer completely and prevent its recurrence, but this is not always possible. For some, the goal is to slow the spread of cancer and achieve a period of inactivity (remission) for as long as possible. For others, the goal is to reduce the symptoms to produce a better quality of life.
2. What is the treatment plan? This may include surgery, radiation, targeted chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and other options.
3. What are the names of the medications I will receive?
4. What is the treatment schedule? This information should include the number of treatments of each type, and the timing.
5. How long will each treatment take? Unlike ordinary injections, chemotherapy sometimes requires several hours of intravenous administration.
6. What side effects can I expect, and how can they be managed? You may receive other medications to prevent or reduce the side effects of the cancer-fighting agents.
7. How will the treatment affect my other conditions? Your doctor should discuss with you in detail how to take care of other health issues such as diabetes, cardiovascular problems, etc.
8. What effects will this treatment have on my sexuality and fertility? There may be temporary or permanent changes.
9. How will this affect my activities?

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.