Questions to Ask About Cancer Care

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What to ask your doctor about cancer care

Many people are unsure what questions to ask their care providers. In response, NCCN includes lists of questions that people can reference in the library of NCCN Guidelines for Patients®Below are some common questions included in the patient guidelines. Feel free to use these questions or come up with your own.

Questions about cancer testing

  1. What tests will I have?
  2. Do the tests have any risks?
  3. Will my insurance pay for all of the tests you are recommending?
  4. Do I need to do anything to prepare for testing?
  5. Should I bring someone with me to my appointments?
  6. Where do I go for testing, and how long will it take?
  7. If any of the tests will hurt, what will you do to make me comfortable?
  8. How soon will I know the results and who will explain them to me?
  9. How can I get a copy of the pathology report and other test results?
  10. Is there an online portal with my test results?

Questions about treatment options 

  1. What are my treatment options? 
  2. Is a clinical trial an option for me?
  3. What will happen if I do nothing? 
  4. Are you suggesting options other than what NCCN recommends? If yes, why?
  5. How do my age, sex, overall health, and other factors affect my options?
  6. What if I am pregnant, or planning to become pregnant?
  7. Does any option offer a cure or long-term cancer control?
  8. What are the side effects of the treatments?
  9. How do I get a second opinion?
  10. How long do I have to decide about treatment, and is there a social worker or someone who can help me decide?

Questions about resources and support

  1. Who can I talk to about help with housing, food, and other basic needs?
  2. What assistance is available for transportation, childcare, and home care?
  3. Who can tell me what my options for health insurance are and assist me with applying for insurance coverage?
  4. How much will I have to pay for my treatment? What help is available to pay for medicines and other treatment?
  5. Who can help me with my concerns about work or school?
  6. How can I connect with others and build a support system?
  7. Who can I talk to if I don’t feel safe at home, at work, or in my neighborhood?

Questions about what to expect

  1. Does this hospital or cancer center offer the best treatment for me?
  2. Do I have a choice of when to begin treatment?
  3. How long will treatment last?
  4. Will my insurance cover the treatment you’re recommending?
  5. Are there any programs to help pay for treatment?
  6. What supportive care and services are available to me and my caregivers?
  7. Who should I contact with questions or concerns if the office is closed?
  8. How will you know if treatment is working?
  9. What are the chances of the cancer worsening or returning?
  10. What follow-up care is needed after treatment?

Questions about side effects

  1. What are the possible complications and side effects of treatment?
  2. Does the cancer itself cause any side effects?
  3. Which side effects are most common and how long do they usually last?
  4. Which side effects are serious or life-threatening?
  5. Are there any long-term or permanent side effects?
  6. What symptoms should I report right away, and who do I contact?
  7. What can I do to prevent or relieve the side effects of treatment?
  8. Do any medications worsen side effects?
  9. Do any side effects lessen or worsen in severity over time?
  10. Will you stop or change treatment if there are serious side effects?

Questions to ask about clinical trials

  1. Do you recommend that I consider a clinical trial for treatment?
  2. How do I find clinical trials that I can participate in?
  3. What are the treatments used in the clinical trial?
  4. Has the treatment been used for other types of cancer?
  5. What are the risks and benefits of this treatment?
  6. What side effects should I expect and how will they be managed?
  7. How long will I be in the clinical trial?
  8. Will I be able to get other treatment if this doesn’t work?
  9. How will you know if the treatment is working?
  10. Will the clinical trial cost me anything?

Additional Resources

  • Click here to view more questions tailored to a specific type of cancer and additional resources for people with cancer and caregivers.
  • Click here to view more information about clinical trials.
  • Click here to view more information about immunotherapy side effects.