When a patient is diagnosed with cancer, they typically experience a flood of emotions followed by many questions. During your first visit, your oncologist can answer many questions about what kind of cancer you have and where it is located. You will also learn about how your cancer is staged (additional diagnostic tests may be needed) and what that means. Treatment options are discussed, as well as the goals of your treatment.
Patients often want to know why so many tests are needed and how their oncologist will know if the treatment is working. Your oncologist will explain the proposed schedule for treatment, including the need for any additional testing, and they will also advise you about the potential risks and side effects.
Most patients ask to start treatment immediately, but your oncologist will explain why sometimes starting treatment needs to be delayed. Pertinent information needs to be thoroughly reviewed and considered, and proper insurance authorization must be obtained. This will ensure that the patient receives the appropriate treatment plan and the best care possible.
Patients have a choice in their care.
Patients need to know that they have choices in their care, including choosing not to proceed with treatment. Open and honest communication is vital between the patient, the oncologist, and all care team members. Treatment will not be initiated until the patient has been thoroughly educated and informed consent has been obtained.
Write it down.
If possible, bringing a family member or friend to your appointments is nice for the patient to be a second set of ears. However, it is an emotional time for the patient, and it’s not uncommon to forget much of the information, especially during the first few appointments. Therefore, it’s a good idea to take notes so that you can refer to them later to answer questions you may have.
It’s also a good idea to write down any questions or concerns you have before meeting with your oncologist so that they can make sure they have addressed your concerns.
Other common questions include:
Can I continue all my current medications?
Are there dietary restrictions or vitamins/supplements I should take or avoid?
Will this affect my ability to work?
Will I need to be in the hospital to receive treatment?
How will my treatment affect my daily activities, and is there anything I should avoid or begin doing?
Can I get vaccinations before or during treatment? (Hepatitis C, Shingles, Pneumonia, Influenza)
Can I have non-cancer-related surgery (i.e., knee or hip surgery) while on treatment?
Should I see a dentist prior to starting treatment?
How often do I need to schedule appointments?
What type of follow-up can I expect during and once treatment is completed?