What to ask your oncologist
06 February 2013
Port Elizabeth social worker Charmaine Oosthuizen, who works with cancer patients, speaks out after World Cancer Day on Monday this week.
I HAVE realised how little understanding people have about cancer, and this will prevent them being more proactive and taking ownership of their health.
recently saw a woman, aged 42, diagnosed with cervical cancer. In my interview I asked her the following questions:
- Did your cancer spread? Her response: "I don’t know”.
- Is the doctor going to do any treatment? Her response: "I don’t know”.
- Is the doctor doing any further test to determine the spread of the cancer? Her response: "Yes, I will see the doctor in January in two months for another pap smear.”
- What does the doctor hope to learn by doing another pap smear? Her response: "I don’t know”.
At the end of the interview I was so angry and upset that I requested her to return to her doctor that same afternoon with a list of questions to ask.
In her case, two months – the whole of December and January – passed with no medical intervention whatsoever with regards to her cancer.
Studies show that people with cancer who are fully informed about their disease and treatment options usually tend to fare better and experience fewer side effects than those who simply follow doctors’ orders.
Being informed gives you some control over your disease and encourage a positive outlook.
This is why I’d love La Femme readers to know what general questions to ask your oncologist during your first appointment.
HERE is Charmaine Oosthuizen’s list of questions to ask the doctor if you are diagnosed with any form of cancer.
Start with general questions such as:
- What is cancer?
- What causes this type of cancer?
- What is my diagnosis?
- Did the cancer spread? If so, how does this affect treatment decisions?
- If yes, where did it spread to? ý What is my prognosis? What is the outcome is likely to be?
- What is the recommended treatment for my disease?
- Is this a standard treatment?
- Are there any alternative treatment options to consider?
- How often and how long will I have to undergo treatment?
- Are there any side effects of treatment?
- What are the expected results of treatment?
- How long does each treatment take?
- How will this affect my daily functioning?
- Who should I call with questions or concerns?
- Where can I find more information about my cancer?
- Is there anything else I should be asking?
- Questions to ask about cancer