Questions to Ask

Northwest Georgia Oncology Centers’ (NGOC) cancer doctors thoroughly discuss your evaluation, treatment and possible side effects and are happy to address any other questions or concerns you may have about your care.

An effective way to ensure all your needs are met and your questions answered during an appointment or treatment is to make a list of questions or keep a care journal. Your family, friends and caregivers can help you remember the important questions. Being prepared helps you talk more effectively with your doctor or nurse and helps us provide better care.  Bring the list or journal with you to each appointment or treatment to take notes.

The following are some questions you may wish to ask your NGOC cancer care team:

Your Cancer:
• Do you typically treat patients with my diagnosis at NGOC?
• What stage is my cancer?

Following a diagnosis of cancer, accurately determining the stage of a patient’s cancer is vital to the patient’s treatment and prognosis or outcome.   Stage describes how far the cancer has spread is usually consists of four stages in most cancers.  Staging cancer is based upon the size of the tumor, the number of lymph nodes involved and the extent the cancer has metastasized or spread to other parts or organs in the body.  Usually, the lower the stage, the better the outcome or prognosis.  This is why early detection is so important.   As a general rule, Stage 1 is a small cancer found only in the organ where it started.  Stage 2 is a larger cancer that may or may not have spread to the lymph nodes.  A larger cancer that is also found in the lymph nodes is Stage 3.   A person is stage 4 when the cancer is already in a different organ from where it originally started.

• Is there anything unique about my cancer that makes my prognosis better or worse?
• Should I get a second opinion?

Cancer Treatment:
• What is the goal of treatment?
• To cure my cancer or stop it from growing?
• What are my treatment options?
• How can each treatment option help me achieve my goal of therapy?
• What risks or potential side effects are associated with each treatment?
• What research studies (“clinical trials”) are available at NGOC?
• Are there any clinical trials that are right for me?
• How long will I receive treatment, how often, and where?
• How will it be given?
• How will I know if the treatment is working?
• How might a disruption in my chemotherapy dose or timing affect my results?
• How and when will I be able to tell whether the treatment is working?
• What are the names of all the drugs I will be taking?
• Can I talk with another of your patients who has received this treatment?
• Are there any resources or websites you recommend for more information?

Tests:
• What types of lab tests will I need?
• Will I need x-rays and scans?
• Can you explain the results of my complete blood count (CBC)?
• Are there tests for the genetic make-up of my cancer?
• Will I benefit from having my cancer evaluated for its genetic make-up?
• How frequently will I get the tests?

Side Effects of Treatment:
• What are the possible side effects?
• When can I expect any side effects to start?
• Will they get better or worse as my treatment goes along?
• How can I prepare for them or lessen their impact?
• Are there treatments that can help relieve the side effects?  What are they?  Do you usually recommend or prescribe them?
• Which risks are most serious?
• Will I require blood transfusions?  Why?
• How can I best monitor myself for complications related to either my disease or my treatment?

Protecting Against Infection:
• Will my type of chemotherapy put me at risk for a low white blood cell count and infection?
• Can I help protect myself against infection right from the start of chemotherapy, instead of waiting until problems develop?
• Am I at special risk for infection?
• What are the signs of infection?
• How serious is an infection?
• How long will I be at risk for infection?
• What should I do if I have a fever?
• How are infections treated?

Daily Activities:
• How will my cancer treatment affect my usual activities?
• Will I be able to work?
• Will I need to stay in the hospital?
• Will I need someone to help me at home?
• Will I need help taking care of my kids?
• Are there any activities I should avoid during my chemotherapy?

What to Expect After Treatment:
• What happens after I complete my treatment?
• How can I best continue to monitor myself for complications related to either my disease or my treatment?
• What kind of lab tests will I need?
• How frequently should I get those lab tests?
• What types of x-rays and scans will I need?
• How often do I need to come in for checkups?
• When will you know if I am cured?
• What happens if my disease comes back?