Questions to ask your doctor when first diagnosed

December 05, 2018 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health

Your first appointment to discuss your cancer diagnosis with your physician can be overwhelming. You will probably feel a mix of emotions and you may not know where to begin.

There are two things to keep in mind right away:

  1. Every person is unique and so is every cancer diagnosis. Even someone with the same type of cancer as you will experience it differently.
  2. Take an active role — don’t be afraid to ask your doctor questions about your care and your treatment options. It can help you feel more in control and less overwhelmed.

Here are basic questions you may want to ask your doctor when first diagnosed:

General information

  • What kind of cancer do I have?
  • Where exactly is the cancer located?
  • What is the stage of my cancer? What does that mean?
  • Are there risk factors for this type of cancer? Is this cancer genetic?
  • Where can I find more information about my cancer?


  • Are there additional tests I need before I begin treatment?
  • How do I prepare for these tests?
  • When will I find out the results?
  • Do I need to get a second opinion?


  •  What treatment do you recommend and why?
  • Do I need any other tests before we decide on treatment?    
  • What is the goal of treatment?    
  • What are the risks and side effects of treatment?    
  • How will you help me manage the side effects?
  • What are the pros and cons of the treatment? Are there other treatments I should consider?
  • How long will the treatment last?
  • What can I do to be ready for treatment?
  • How much does treatment cost? Will it be covered by my insurance?
  • How will I know if the treatment is working?

Symptoms/Side effects

  • What side effects can I expect from the cancer and from the treatments for it?
  • Is there anything I can do to help manage my symptoms?
  • Will my diet change? What should I be eating?
  • Is it okay for me to be active during treatment?
  • Are there any activities I should avoid that may make my symptoms worse? Are there activities that would lessen my symptoms?


  • Are there support services available to my family and me?
  • How do I manage the cost of cancer treatment?
  • Who do I contact if I have questions?

It can be difficult to remember everything your doctor tells you during your first appointment. Bring a family member or friend with you to help you make sure all of your questions have been answered.

If you don’t understand something your doctor tells you, ask your doctor to explain it differently. You should feel comfortable talking to your doctor and you should leave your appointment with all of your questions answered.

Remember to take this news one day at a time. You are not alone in your cancer journey and there is a lot of support available.

Learn more about cancer services at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

Related blogs:

5 tips for newly diagnosed cancer patients

How to break the news that you have cancer


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