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.
When you’re diagnosed with cancer, you’re typically treated by a multidisciplinary team including several different healthcare professionals that work together to manage your care. Forming a strong relationship with your healthcare team will be crucial to managing your cancer journey.
Some of the most important questions to ask are the following:
- What is the clinical stage (1-4) and pathological grade of my cancer? The stage of cancer tells you location and size, and whether it has traveled somewhere other than the main site. The pathological grade of cancer tells you about the type of tumor. Grading systems differ based on the type of cancer so check with your doctor about what it means for your unique situation.
- Which treatment(s) will give me the best quality of life and greatest life expectancy? [For this question to be most effective, make sure you let your doctor know what is most important to you: mobility, socializing, etc. If the doctors know what makes your life worth living, they are better able to recommend treatments for your needs and desires in mind.]
- What other tests can I have to see if the cancer has spread anywhere else?
- How long will it take to get the results of these tests?
- Can I get a copy of the test results?
- Can you explain the results of my complete blood count (CBC)?
- Are there hormone receptor tests or other specific markers that help to characterize my type of cancer?**
- What is the outlook or prognosis for my cancer?
- Would I be better off being treated in a more specialized center?
- What would my life expectancy be if I didn't have any treatment?
**For example, breast cancer should always be tested for HER2 and hormone receptor status.
Decisions about cancer treatment are personal, and you need to feel comfortable about your choices. Asking these questions will make sure you’re informed before you make any decisions that could literally impact the quality of your life.
If you don’t feel comfortable asking them yourself, there are cancer-coaching services that are able to advocate for you and inform you, like our partner Beacon Advocates. Beacon Advocates is a cancer care team that can help you navigate your cancer journey with a holistic approach. Their cancer care team advocates for you every step of the way.
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.