Questions to ask my oncologist:

Updated: Mar 17, 2021

Cancer diagnosis can be extremely stressful for patients and family members. It is natural to have a lot of questions; questions about cancer, questions about cancer treatment options and many more. Cancer treatment landscape is complicated and therefore cancer treatment related questions can be best answered by your oncologist and other health care professionals. Therefore, it is important know what cancer treatment related questions to ask your oncologist before you visit because you may not get more than 2o minutes of your doctor's time. But often, we run into the issue of "what should I ask my oncologist?"

Breast cancer patient sitting on a hospital bed and asking an oncologist questions who is standing next to her.

Questions for your oncologist can be very personal and you may feel hesitant to ask questions. To best use your time with your oncologist during your appointment, it is useful to have questions ready before hand and probably written down. Below is a list of some of the most popular and important questions to ask your oncologist to have a meaningful conversation. For data-driven answers to your cancer treatment related questions, you can visit or email us at for more information.

Questions to ask your oncologist about the chosen treatment option: Why is this the best option?

This is probably the most important question to ask your oncologist, because you want to know what are the numbers regarding disease-free survival, overall survival and quality of life. To treat most of the cancers, there are multiple FDA-approved cancer drugs. Not all of these drugs or drug combinations work equally well for all the patients. So it may be a great question to ask you oncologist about what treatment options are you choosing? What is the expected response rate, recurrence-free survival, progression-free survival and overall survival? Ideally, you want to choose the option that has the highest response rate, highest recurrence-free survival, progression-free survival and overall survival rates, as seen from clinical trials. In addition, your oncologist will have personal experience from treating many patients, which may help you find your answers.

Questions to ask your oncologist about additional options: what if the current approach fails to produce desired results?

Your oncologist or the healthcare providing team is going to provide you with a treatment plan that works for most patients based on your test results. There is a significantly high chance that this plan will work equally well for you. However, it never hurts to have a contingency plan. So may be you can bring up this question when you meet your oncologist. Ask your oncologist about the second line of treatment, third line of treatment as well as results from those treatments.

Questions to ask your oncologist about side effects and pain management

Another important question for your oncologist could be about management of therapy related side effects and pain. The cancer treatment is harsh. It is harsh because cancer cells keep growing and replacing normal cells from important organs and other tissues. So eventually the patient dies from multiple organ failure. Only a harsh treatment is effective in stopping these highly dividing cells. Therefore, it is important to discuss the side effects of the proposed treatment and how well does it align with your health history.

Now remember, although it may sound intimidating, these drugs have been prescribed and studied millions of times to provide significant clinical benefit to patients. You may have heard that chemotherapy is very toxic for the body and has long term effects. Yes it is true, but the effects are reversible and the benefit outweighs the risk. Same is true for immunotherapy.

Questions to ask your oncologist about available genetic testing

Immunotherapy is becoming increasingly popular in treating several cancers. However, it is also becoming evident that the higher the tumor mutation burden is, the better the response could be from immunotherapy treatment. In addition, there are many targeted therapies available for many types of mutations, which can be determined through sequencing of the cancer genome.

Liquid biopsies are becoming increasingly popular in monitoring the free floating cancer cells in the blood. Over a period of time the change in the mutation level in these free floating cancer cells can be an indicator of tumor progression or relapse. Ask your doctor about how to get the cancer genome sequenced.

Questions to ask your oncologist about clinical trials and how to get enrolled

Clinical trials are one of the best ways to get effective cancer care. Ask your doctor if you can enroll in a clinical trial.

Questions to ask your oncologist about pain management

With cancer and cancer treatment come a lot of pain. So pain management on its own is a big area that needs to be discussed with your doctor.

Questions to ask your oncologist about coping with the feelings that come with cancer

Ask your doctor about how to manage all the overwhelming feelings that come with cancer and cause psychological distress. Ask your doctor about available help with adjusting to cancer in your daily life.

There will always be questions during the treatment and after the treatment. You can always contact Cancer Therapies 4 U for your information related needs. We can research information from published clinical literature and/or analyze published large-scale patient datasets to provide you with important insights, which will definitely help you to make an informed decision.

#cancer #oncologist #cancerquestions



Author: Anirban Mukherjee, PhD

Founder, Cancer Therapies 4 U LLC

The author is a cancer Scientist at The University of Texas at Austin researching new drugs to treat chemoresistant forms of cancer.

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