Questions to ask your doctor
If you have been diagnosed with cancer, learning more about the disease and its treatment helps you have an active role in your care. Asking your doctor questions will also help you make informed choices. You may want to use these questions below as a guide and include some in your own list.
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Questions to ask your doctor
- What type of cancer do I have?
- Has the cancer spread? If so, where has it spread? How fast is it growing?
- What’s the stage of the cancer? What does the stage mean for my treatment?
- Are the latest tests and treatments for this type of cancer available in this hospital?
- Will a multidisciplinary team be involved in my diagnosis and treatment?
- Are there clinical guidelines and an optimal care pathway for this type of cancer?
- What will this test involve?
- What are the benefits and risks of having this test?
- What will the test results tell us? How will the results affect the type of treatment I’m offered?
Treatment and costs
- What treatment do you recommend? What is the aim of the treatment?
- Are there other treatments that might work? If not, why not?
- How long will treatment take?
- Who will provide the treatment?
- Will I have to stay in hospital?
- Are there any out-of-pocket expenses not covered by Medicare or my private health cover? Is there a way the cost can be reduced if I can’t afford it?
- Will I have only one treatment or will I also have other treatments?
- How long do I have to make a decision?
- I‘m thinking of getting a second opinion. Can you recommend anyone?
- If I don’t have the treatment, what should I expect?
- How will I know if the treatment is working?
- What if this treatment does not work?
- What are the risks and possible side effects of each treatment? How can these be managed?
- Will the side effects improve or have lasting effects?
- Is there any side effect that I should particularly look out for?
- Are there any complementary therapies that might help me?
- Can I have the flu, COVID-19 or other vaccines?
- What does taking part in a clinical trial mean?
- Are there any clinical trials or research studies I could join?
- How often will I need to have check-ups after treatment finishes?
- Who should I go to for the check-up appointments?
- If the cancer returns, how will I know? What treatments could I have?
If advanced cancer is diagnosed
- What’s the best I can hope for by having treatment?
- Are there new treatments I can try? Is the treatment going to improve my chance of getting better?
- What treatments can relieve my symptoms?
- Who will be responsible for my medical care?
- What help can my family and/or friends get if they care for me at home?
- Can I have palliative care? How do I get it?
- Can you help me talk to my family about what is happening?
How to talk with your doctor
To make the most of your appointments with your doctor before, during and after treatment, you could:
Book a longer appointmentrequest a longer appointment if you have a number of issues to discuss
Make a list of questionswrite down your questions before the appointment
Take a support personbring a friend or family member for support, or to write down information
Record the conversationask your doctor if you can record the conversation
Get more informationask where to find more information about tests and treatments
Ask for an interpreteruse an interpreter if you speak a language other than English
Podcast: Coping with a Cancer Diagnosis
The information on this page is also available for download.
This question checklist was developed with help from a range of health professionals and people affected by cancer.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.