2022 Big C Survivor's Guide - Diagnosis

Questions to ask your oncologist

November 26, 2021 Word for Word Media 0Comment


  • What type of cancer do I have?
  • Can I have a copy of my histology? Can you explain the report to me?
  • Is it an aggressive or indolent type of cancer?
  • Where did it start? And has it spread to other parts of my body? How do you check if it has spread? Which scans do I need?
  • Is my treatment curative (can it be removed completely) or is it palliative (not curable but can it be controlled or prevented from spreading further)?
  • If it’s curative, what is the risk of it coming back?
  • What is my prognosis? What is my expected life expectancy with this cancer?
  • Do I need genetic counselling to decide if I need genetic testing?


  • Which hospital or facility will I be treated at?
  • What are my treatment options? What type of treatment will 
  • I be receiving?
  • Do I need different kinds of treatment, like surgery, radiation, chemotherapy or a combination?
  • How is my treatment administered? 
  • Is it via a drip, port, or is it oral?
  • Are clinical trials an option for me? 
  • What is the likelihood that I will respond to treatment?
  • What are the side effects of my treatment? What should I be careful to look out for?
  • Can I change treatments if I’m not tolerating it or if I have bad side effects?
  • How do you monitor the effectiveness of treatment? After how many treatments do we check if it’s working?
  • How many treatments do I need? 
  • How long is each treatment?
  • How often do I receive my treatment?
  • How do I prepare for the treatment? 
  • Is there anything I need to bring? Do I eat breakfast when I have treatment?
  • Will type of support do I need after each treatment? 
  • Can I drive myself to each treatment?
  • In case of emergency during my treatment, who do I contact? 
  • Can I continue working/studying 
  • while on treatment? 
  • Is there a dietitian, physiotherapist or psychologist that can help me during my treatment?
  • Do I need to be hospitalised at any point during treatment? 
  • Are there any specialised shops for the needs of cancer patients (wigs, head covers, prosthesis)? Does my medical aid cover any of this? 
  • Is there someone I can talk to who has been through this treatment? 
  • Are there support groups that can help me and my family during treatment?

For your own peace of mind

  • Are you familiar with the type of cancer I have?
  • Are there different specialists in your team that deals with my specific type of cancer?
  • Can I get a second opinion if needed? Your doctor should be open to you asking different opinions for you to feel comfortable with who is treating you.
  • Where is the best place or proper websites where I can access additional information?
  • What is the communication policy at your practice? Who do I contact in case of an emergency, or if I need additional information or more time or appointments to discuss my cancer and treatments, or if I have side effects? Do I call, or email, or is there someone I can message if I need help?
  • Will I be discussed prior to starting treatment in a multi-disciplinary meeting (MDM) and provided with feedback? Sometimes cancer treatment requires different specialists from oncology disciplines, survivorship doctors and allied healthcare professionals. 
  • What will the additional costs be throughout my treatment e.g. medication and operation costs? 
  • Is my medical aid going to cover my treatment? Will there be co-payments for my treatment? How do I find out these cost estimates?
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