Questions for Your Doctor
The best way to start regaining some of that control is to be a partner with your doctor in developing your treatment plan. In order to make informed decisions, you need to ask questions about the options that are available to you in terms of the current stage of your mesothelioma. If you do not understand the explanations your doctor gives you, don’t be afraid to ask him/her to explain it again. A good dialogue between you and your doctor will help relieve some of the stress that results from the fear of the unknown.
Here are some questions to help you get the dialogue started:
- Which type of mesothelioma do I have?
- How large is the tumor?
- Is it localized or has it metastasized?
- Is there lymph node involvement?
- Has the cancer been staged, and at what stage is it?
- Is the tumor operable?
- If you doctor answers that you are a candidate for surgery:
- Will the tumor be completely removed or will it be debulked?
- Which type of surgery will you use and why?
- Could you explain where the procedure will be performed and what method that institution uses? (different medical facilities perform variations of the basic extrapleural pneumonectomy or pleurectomy/decortication)
- After surgery will I receive radiation?
- How long after surgery will I begin radiation therapy?
- Will I receive external beam radiation or IMRT, and why?
- What are the possible side effects of radiation treatment?
- After surgery will I receive chemotherapy?
- When will I begin treatment?
- What drug combination will I receive and why?
- Does the use of any of these chemotherapy drugs require me to take vitamin supplements?
- What are the possible side effects from this combination?
- What is my prognosis upon completion of treatment?
- What is the probability for a recurrence of the disease either locally or at a distant site?
- What would the possible second line of treatment be if there is a recurrence?
- Is there anything I can do to be sure that I am in the best possible physical shape to withstand the effects of treatment?
If your doctor answers that you are not a candidate for surgical removal of the tumor:
- What can be done to manage my symptoms?
- How effective will this be?
- What is my prognosis?
- Given the stage of my cancer, would enrolling in a clinical trial be feasible?
- Should I be considering hospice care?
You may also want to discuss getting a second opinion with your doctor. Don’t feel that s/he will take this as a sign that you don’t trust their diagnosis/treatment plan. Your doctor may even recommend that you seek out another opinion. Remember, doctors often confer with other physicians on cases, so don’t hesitate to do the same thing so you can be sure that nothing has been overlooked and that you are receiving the best care possible.