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Patient Perspective: What Should You Ask Your Doctor at the First Oncology Appointment?

As a breast cancer survivor and patient advocate, I’m often asked for advice from people who were newly diagnosed about what to do and what to expect. 

One question that comes up frequently is: Is there anything I should ask my doctor at my first oncology check-in?

Absolutely – ask everything!  Ask him or her everything you can think of…it’s best to write them down beforehand in a notebook, in case you forget during the appointment (which is common!). Bring that notebook with you every time you come in for an appointment.

Don’t be afraid to hand the pen over to the doc or nurse!  They might use terms or describe medicines that you have never heard before, and if they write it down, you know it will be spelled properly and you can do further research on your own when you feel up to it. 

This notebook will be a handy guide for you when you can’t quite remember the answers you were given or even if you had asked the questions! It will also be very useful for caregivers and friends, if you are comfortable sharing with them.  It will become a bit of a guidebook for you on your cancer ‘trek.’

If you don’t know what to ask, here are some great questions you might want to add first: 

  • What kind of side effects will I experience (and how best can I combat them)? 
  • Are there any resources here at the hospital/cancer center that might be able to help my family with unexpected financial concerns that might arise? 

  • Is there a list of non-profits that can help me in our area with wigs, scarves, rides to treatments, etc.? 

  • Do you recommend any dietary changes during treatment? 

Remember, there is no such thing as a dumb question, especially when it comes to helping you understand your care and what’s to come.