Questions Every Cancer Patient Should Ask

Question #1: Can you repeat that?

Getting diagnosed with cancer is like walking through a hurricane. Winds are swirling all around and you’re just trying to stay on your feet. It’s difficult to remain clear-headed and absorb all that’s being told to you. No one expects you to hear and understand everything.

I encourage patients (and family members) to ask physicians and other health professionals to repeat themselves if something is unclear. If you still don’t understand, ask about other resources that might be helpful. Often there’s a nurse, patient navigator, or other individual who’s especially good and patient at answering questions and explaining what’s ahead.

Some people learn best from written information and/or diagrams. Your health care providers and cancer support organizations can provide that material.

Question #2: How long can I safely wait before beginning treatment?

Many people feel pressured to begin cancer treatment immediately after diagnosis. In most cases, it’s quite reasonable to wait for a few weeks. This provides the opportunity to seek second opinions if you desire, or time to go ahead with that long-planned vacation.

A few cancers are especially aggressive and do require the initiation of treatment within a few days. Ask your doctor how long you can safely wait before beginning treatment.

Question #3: Which doctor is coordinating my care?

It’s common to have multiple doctors involved in your treatment. It’s helpful to have one doctor serving as the captain of your ship. Ask your doctors who’s coordinating your care.

If you suddenly feel ill or have another problem, you’ll want to know which doctor to call. This might be clear if the problem is related to your cancer or cancer treatment, but what if the problem is probably not cancer related. Who should you call then?

Confusion also exists when your treatment is completed and you’re transitioning back to your primary care physician. It’s not always obvious who is going to order your mammograms or other routine tests. Be sure to ask.

These three questions sound simple, but they aren’t asked nearly enough. It’s more than OK to ask – it’s encouraged!



Original Publication Date: May 4, 2013
Reprinted with permission of the Ithaca Journal.


Click here to see all of Bob’s columns


Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on linkedin
On Key

Related Posts

10/28 Soup-er Supper Fundraiser

1st Annual Souper-Supper FundraiserPresented by Puddledockers Wed Oct 28 (orders due by Oct 20)10am-6pm Pick up or Delivery (within city limits, $5 delivery fee) Place your order here! $30 includes:

10/3 CRC Cares About Families!

Saturday, October 3rd from 9:30-11:30  #CRCCaresAboutFamiliesAre you a family with young children or teens in the household with a parent or close family member affected by cancer? We invite you to

stack rock on seashore

Free Virtual Wellness Programming Continues

Anyone affected by cancer (including long-term survivors and caregivers) are encouraged to join us.  All classes free of charge. Email for more information. CRC & Lifelong Collaboration: Strength Training

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

See Great Resources and Events happening! Free “ZERO Prostate Cancer” Webinar In prostate cancer and COVID-19, disparities between Black and white patients are well-documented among diagnosis, treatment, and mortality statistics.