I’ve been diagnosed with cancer - What should I ask?
If you’ve just been diagnosed with cancer you probably have lots of questions, the trouble is you forget them all when you see the doctor! You’ve probably heard it before, but it can really help to write a few questions down.
If another member of your family, or a close friend has had cancer treatment, it can be especially hard to deal with the news that you have cancer, but remember, every type of cancer is different (and has different treatments). Even cancers with the same name (e.g. leukaemia or breast cancer) can actually be totally different diseases (e.g. a breast cancer can be “DCIS” a ductal carcinoma in situ or “LCIS” a loboular carcinoma in situ and these are two totally different diseases.) Also treatments have improved in the past 10, 20 and 30 years. For example, we now have much better treatments for side effects, such as the sickness caused by chemotherapy, than we had 30 years ago.
So what do you need to know? That is up to you, some people like to know as much as they can, other people are happy to leave the decisions up to their doctors. There is no right or wrong way. People often find that some times they want to know a lot and at other times they just want to know the minimum, this is normal.
As a minimum, if you want to find out more information, you need to know exactly what type of cancer you have and it’s perfectly fine to ask your doctor to write this down for you (after all they know how to spell the long words!)
Ten Questions to ask your doctor (if you want to!)
1 What type of cancer do I have?
2 Is it just in one place or has it spread?
3 Do I need any more tests or investigations?
4 Can you treat the cancer? If so, do I need…
(i) Surgery (an operation)
(ii) Chemotherapy (drugs)
(iii) Radiotherapy (a special type of X-Ray)
5 Can you get rid of the cancer completely or are you trying to slow it down?
6 Will I feel better after treatment? What side-effects can I expect?
7 What will happen if I don’t have any treatment?
8 Can I speak to another doctor and get a second opinion?
9 Do you have a specialist nurse or any support services? How do I contact them?
10 Are you taking part in any clinical trials that could help me?
There are other lots of other questions you could ask. This webpage is from the British Medical Journal patient information site and gives you questions to ask about a lung cancer diagnosis, but the questions are just as good for other types of cancer.
This website of “Help and Support -Practical Ideas” from the NHS in the North of England, provides some good tips and information on how to find cancer information and how to speak to your doctors. You can also find some information on talking about cancer on the Macmillan website. They also produce some leaflets called “Ask About“.
If you know of any other useful links, please let me know.