Talking to Your Health Care Provider about Colorectal Cancer
You have a unique medical history. Therefore, it is essential to talk with your doctor or health care provider about your personal risk factors and/or experience with colorectal cancer. By talking openly and regularly with your health care provider, you can take an active role in your care.
General Tips for Gathering Information
Here are some tips that will make it easier for you to talk to your health care provider:
- Bring someone else with you. It helps to have another person hear what is said and think of questions to ask.
- Write out your questions ahead of time, so you don't forget them.
- Write down the answers you get, and make sure you understand what you are hearing. Ask for clarification, if necessary.
- Don't be afraid to ask questions or ask where you can find more information about what you are discussing. You have a right to know.
Specific Questions to Ask Your Health Care Provider
About Your Risk of Developing Colorectal Cancer
- Based on my family and medical history, am I at risk for colorectal cancer?
- Are my children or other relatives at higher risk for colorectal cancer?
About Treatment Options
- What is the stage of my cancer?
- Should I see a surgeon? Medical oncologist? Radiation oncologist?
- What treatments are recommended for me?
- What are the most common side effects associated with these treatment options?
- Will my treatment require a stay in the hospital? If so, for how long?
- What possible long-term effects might occur as a result of the surgery or post-surgical treatment?
- How commonly do these occur? What can be done, if anything, to reduce these effects?
- Will I need a colostomy? Will it be permanent?
- Is this treatment likely to cure my cancer? If not, what treatments are planned to extend my life?
- What is the probability of a recurrence and what treatment(s) are available to me in the event of a recurrence?
- After treatment, what type of follow-up should I have?
- Are there any alternative or complementary therapies that I should consider?
- Will my sexual function be affected?
About Lifestyle Changes
- How will my normal activities change as a result of treatment?
- Can you recommend support groups in the local area with people I can talk to?
- What side effects should I expect?
- How long will they last?
- Which side effects should I report? To whom should I report side effects?
- What follow-up tests will be done and at what intervals?
- Do you regularly measure CEA values? What will you do if this increases?
Colorectal Cancer Network
National Cancer Institute
Last reviewed February 2003 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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