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Talking with healthcare providers about cancer can be overwhelming. It can be hard to take in all of the information. It helps to be prepared. Make a list of questions and bring them to your appointments. Write the answers down in a notebook. Make sure you ask how the treatment will change your daily life, including your diet, and how you will look and feel after treatment. Ask how successful the treatment is expected to be, and what the risks and possible side effects are. You may also want to ask a friend or family member to go with you. He or she can take notes and write down the answers, and also ask questions you may not think of. You can also ask your healthcare provider if you can record the conversation.
Below are some questions to ask during your appointments.
What are my treatment options?
What treatment do you think is best for me? Why?
What are the goals of treatment?
What is the success rate of this particular treatment for my type and stage of cancer?
What is the average life expectancy for someone with my stage of cancer getting treatment?
How much experience do you have treating cancers like mine?
Will you be able to perform sphincter-saving surgery (for rectal cancer)?
Should I get a second opinion?
Are there any clinical trials I should look into?
How soon do I need to start treatment?
What is the length of the treatment period?
How long will each treatment take?
Where do I have to go for the treatment?
Who will give me the treatment?
Does someone need to go with me during treatments?
Can I take my other medicines during treatment?
How will I feel during and after the treatment?
Will I need a temporary or permanent colostomy?
What side effects can I expect?
How long will side effects last?
Will there be side effects I need to call you about?
What can I do to ease the side effects?
Will I be able to go to work and be around my family?
Should I change my diet? What foods can’t I eat?
Are there support groups nearby that I can join?
How will I feel after the treatment?
What type of follow-up will I need after treatment?
How will we know if treatment worked?
What are my options if the treatment doesn't work or the cancer comes back?
When you have answers from your healthcare provider, it’s time to think about your preferences. Think about what side effects you can and can’t tolerate. Think about whether active surveillance will only make you worry long-term. Talk about all of your concerns with your healthcare provider before making a decision about treatment.
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