After Diagnosis: Questions to Ask your Doctor
When dealing with a new mesothelioma diagnosis, patients and their family members are often overwhelmed with feelings and questions. Some of the questions are more urgent or important than others, but it’s often difficult to organize one’s thoughts at such a difficult time. Here is a list of questions you may consider asking the doctor who leads your treatment team. This doctor should be someone you feel comfortable with and that you feel you can trust. You need to feel that he or she is listening to your concerns and offering you detailed answers to your questions.
Questions for your Doctor
- What stage has my cancer reached? Could you explain the staging system and what my stage means?
- What is my prognosis? What is the average life expectancy for people with my type of mesothelioma?
- What types of treatment will you suggest for my unique case? Why?
- Are there any risks or side effects associated with those treatments?
- Should I research alternative treatments?
- Will I be hospitalized for treatment, or will it be conducted on an outpatient basis?
- How long will I be in treatment?
- What are the drugs I will be taking? Could you please explain what each drug is for, and what the potential side effects are?
- How will we know if my treatment is successful?
- What tests will I need to undergo? How often will these tests take place?
- Will other doctors or specialists contribute to my care? Who will be in charge?
- During treatment, are there symptoms or problems I should report immediately?
- How can I prepare for treatment?
- Do I have any dietary restrictions?
- May I drink alcohol during treatment?
- What are the expenses associated with my treatment? Will insurance cover all of my costs?
- Will I need to travel for treatment?
- What is the best way for me to reach you?
- Are there any current clinical trials that are relevant to my illness?
This is a long list of questions, and it is likely that you will have more questions to ask. Don’t worry about asking too many questions: it is very important that you get all the answers you need to make informed decisions about your care and to fully understand your illness. Sometimes it takes more than one visit with a doctor before a patient feels that all of his or her questions have been answered. You may consider taking notes when you meet with your doctor, or bringing a friend or family member to your appointments so that he or she can help you recap the meeting.
It’s also important that you remember you have the right to a second opinion. This is not an insult to your doctor—he or she should understand that you need to weigh all of your options thoroughly.