Important Questions To Have Answered At Your First Oncology Appointment

If your doctor just recently gave you the news that you've been diagnosed with cancer, it can be a frightening experience. Emotions are running high and you are likely fearful of what your future may hold. With your very first visit with an oncologist soon approaching, now is the time to gather your thoughts and strongly consider what questions you need to ask the medical team. Here are just a few examples of questions you may wish to inquire about.

What Will My Course Of Treatment Involve?

During your initial visit, your doctor will explain to you what type of cancer you've been diagnosed with. Pathology reports have likely already been reviewed by the doctor, so he knows the specifics regarding your disease. The next step is how your doctor expects to treat it. There are often three main ways to treat cancer:

  • Surgery to remove the main tumor and other organs affected
  • Chemotherapy to destroy the cancer cells
  • Radiation treatment to shrink tumor size

Your doctor will likely recommend further testing such as CT scans and MRIs to pinpoint the exact type of cancer you have and if it has spread to distant organs. This will help him or her put together a treatment plan for your individualized care. Keep in mind there are new advances in cancer treatment, such as immunotherapy. Your doctor may suggest something else as a treatment option or he or she may just re-evaluate you in a few months to check for disease progression. 

Will I Need To Have Surgery?

Something you may be concerned with is whether you'll have to have major surgery to remove a tumor from your body. It depends on what type of cancer you have and how advanced the disease is. Surgery is often a part of the entire cancer treatment process. If a tumor is small enough, an outpatient surgery will likely be recommended. If you have a complex or large tumor that is invading other organs, you'll likely be referred to a surgeon who specializes in removing tumors from that area of the body. 

 What Are The Side Effects Of Treatment?

Once treatment has been established. You'll need to ask your oncologist about the potential side effects. Each chemotherapy drug is dosed and tailored to your body, so it's depends on your drug combination and any additional treatments that you may also be getting. The three main treatments for most cancers have a myriad of minimal to advanced side effects:

  • Chemotherapy - May include nausea, tiredness, changes in blood counts and hair loss
  • Radiation - Some hair loss, skin irritation, pain
  • Surgery - Reconstructive surgery, scarring, outpatient rehabilitation and physical therapy

Ask your oncologist what to expect and what the timeline is for each subsequent treatment.

Are There Any Support Resources Available?

It's important to ask for support during treatment, especially if you really need it. The best way is to get a referral from your oncologist for a social worker. Ask about the following if they apply to you:

  • Transportation assistance
  • Help with unpaid medical bills or prescriptions
  • Assistance with applying for disability
  • Any financial resources available if you meet the criteria
  • Group or individualized therapy sessions in relation to cancer

A social worker can also be your advocate to help you find solutions to roadblocks you may experience during your cancer treatment. Be sure to write your questions down and if possible, bring someone with you to your first appointment. Knowing what to expect during the entire process will help bring you more peace of mind. For more information, visit Southwest Oncology Centers.