Ten important questions to ask during a cancer diagnosis


Receiving a cancer diagnosis can be frightening. However, knowledge is power. The more informed you are, the better equipped you’ll be to seek out the best, most complete cancer care available. Knowing what questions to ask your oncologist can not only make a huge difference in your treatment plan but also may save your life. 

Here are the 10 questions you'll want to ask your doctor about your cancer diagnosis and treatment plan.

How do I decide which treatments are best for me? Is your doctor recommending a particular treatment plan based on his or her own experience and expertise? Consulting a team of specialists who meet regularly to discuss your case and thoroughly review your treatment plan is crucial to mapping out the most effective treatment for your specific cancer.

What is my role in determining my treatment plan? Your treatment plan is all about you and you should be included in the planning process. Ask your doctor about the potential outcomes and risks of all your treatment options. You should feel that these conversations are productive — that you have been listened to and that all your questions have been answered both thoroughly and transparently. Your cancer care team should be a source of education and guidance throughout the decision-making process.

What additional services do you offer to help me better fight cancer? Treating cancer isn’t just about fighting the cancer itself. It's about treating the patient as a whole person. Integrated programs should be a part of your treatment plan, including services such as nutritional guidance, emotional and spiritual counseling, programs that address the mind-body connection for healing, patient support groups and rehabilitation services.

What is the level of expertise of the doctors I will see? Knowing you have experienced doctors on your team can help set your mind at ease and provide assurance that you are receiving the best possible care. Physicians who provide cancer care should have specialized training and a high level of experience in performing specific procedures. Ask whether your doctors are board-certified and whether you are being referred to a cancer specialist or general surgeon. 

When will you have time to answer my questions? You should never feel rushed or neglected by your doctor. You should also feel that you have a reasonable level of access to your doctor. Your doctor should take the time to explain everything about your cancer diagnosis and treatment options to both you and your loved ones. It’s also vital that your cancer care doctors take the time to get to know you and understand your needs. Knowing the patient helps physicians treat the whole person, not just the cancer. 

Are natural remedies and supplements included in my treatment plan? Naturopathic medicine and supplements can strengthen your body, helping you fight the cancer and deal with any treatment side effects. If you want to incorporate natural remedies into your cancer treatment plan, your doctor should be willing to support the use of complementary therapies as an integral part of your care.  

Is this the most advanced treatment available? Medical science is continuously making advancements in cancer treatment. The most innovative cancer care programs are driven to develop new and better ways to use leading-edge technologies and incorporate them into treatment protocols. However, no cancer program can offer every available treatment or provide all of the newest treatments to meet your specific needs. Ask your doctor if he or she is aware of advanced treatment options that may be available elsewhere.

Who will coordinate my cancer care? From diagnosis to treatment and recovery, cancer care is a complicated process that involves appointments with many doctors, often in different locations. In an ideal situation, all of your doctors and services would be housed in one location. Unfortunately, that is not always possible. Regardless of where they work, all of your doctors should collaborate as a team to coordinate your treatment and to provide convenient and seamless care.

Are you involved in cancer research and clinical trials? Clinical trials and research studies are often a significant component of a patient’s cancer care. Ask your doctor if he or she is involved in or aware of any cancer research or clinical trials that may be of benefit to you.

What about a second opinion? If you are not satisfied with the answers you have been given, or if you don’t feel your questions and concerns have been addressed, you should consider seeking a second opinion before choosing to work with a cancer care provider or deciding on a particular course of treatment. 

Goshen Center for Cancer Care is Northern Indiana’s first comprehensive cancer center. We have a unique way of treating our cancer patients and believe in treating the whole person, not just the cancer. With an integrative approach that brings together highly trained oncology specialists, we work as a team with our patients to create a unique treatment plan designed specifically for each individual patient. If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, contact us today to learn about our expert cancer care.