Before, During and After Treatment: What to Ask Your Oncology Team Members

September 27, 2021
Before, During and After Treatment: What to Ask Your Oncology Team Members

By: Sarah Kown

Reviewed for Medical Accuracy by Dr. Victoria Croog

When you’re diagnosed with cancer, it might come as a shock. Your oncology team members only have so much time at the appointment to answer your questions and you might not even know where to start. Knowing what questions to ask and educating yourself on various aspects of the cancer journey can help improve the quality of your life throughout treatment and beyond.

Once you've done the research and agreed to treatment, here are some questions you will want to have answered by your healthcare team:

  • How can I prepare for this treatment?
  • Where will the treatment be done (in a hospital or other clinic)?
  • Will the treatment require surgery?
  • Will I be able to drive myself to and from treatment?
  • Will I have to take time off work during treatment?
  • How many treatments will I require and why?
  • Will my insurance cover the cost of treatment?
  • Are there any risks associated with this treatment?
  • If my side effects from treatment become unmanageable, will I continue to receive treatment?
  • Are there risks associated with not completing treatment?
  • How can I best contact you if I have concerns or an emergency medical situation?

As your cancer is unique, your treatment care plan will be as well.  It's important to remember this when you hear or read about others with the same type of cancer and not compare your journey with theirs.  Your doctors will build your treatment care plan based on many different factors.  

Treatment Side Effects

Depending on the individual, cancer treatment can either cause quite unfavorable side effects or barely cause any at all.  This is because everyone's body responds differently to the treatment they receive.  It's important not to assume which side effects you will experience based on stories you’ve heard from others. 

Let's review some specific questions to ask pertaining to treatment side effects.

  1. What possible side effects should I prepare for?

  2. When are they expected to start and when are they expected to resolve?

  3. How can I lessen their impact?

  4. Are there over the counter or prescription medications that can help relieve the side effects?

  5. Given my current state of health, am I at a high risk of getting side effects from treatment?

  6. What are the long-term side effects from this treatment?

  7. Will my treatment put me at risk for a low white blood cell count or infection?

  8. Will I be able to continue working throughout my treatment?

  9. Will I be able to drive myself to my treatments?

  1. If my side effects from treatment become unmanageable will I continue to receive treatment?

  2. Who should I contact if I have an emergency medical situation?

Cancer treatment usually includes more than one type of treatment.  Since everyone reacts to treatment differently, it's not always possible to predict how severe your side effects will be or if you will have any at all. 

After Treatment Support

Many people say that when they finished treatment was the most difficult part of their cancer journey.  If you initially see your healthcare team regularly and then not at all until your follow up, feelings of anxiety and fear can start to creep in as you wait for your next appointment.   

Here are a few questions to ask your Oncology team before your last treatment: 

  1. Who will be following up with me and when?

  2. Who can I contact if my side effects are unmanageable? 

  3. How much longer will my side effects last? 

  4. What should I do if I experience new symptoms? 

  5. What type of test will you do during the follow up appointments? 

  6. Am I at risk of having any long-term health issues from my treatment?
     
  7. Do you know of any support groups or classes I can join?

Support groups aren't for everyone.  If you prefer more personalized support from a professional, ask your healthcare team if there are such services available to you while you’re going through treatment.  Otherwise, you can use our OneVillage community forums to connect with other people going through similar things. 

Learn More About Own Your Cancer Coaching 

Sarah Kown and Christine Squires created Own Your Cancer Coaching to help people throughout their cancer journey by providing them with the knowledge and tools they will need to optimize control of their health. Sarah, a Medical Physicist and Radiation Oncology Therapist, and Christine, a Behavioral Health Counselor, are working together to create guided course content that will help patients make transformative change in unique and practical ways.

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