What Questions Should I Ask My Doctor

It is important to learn not only about pancreatic cancer as a whole, but about your specific case of pancreatic cancer. Remember, depending on the stage, the location, and the spread of a tumor, the treatment options available to you may vary considerably. Make inquiries of physicians to discover if you are a candidate for clinical trials, target therapy, and courses of personalize medicine.

Be Methodical and Ask Questions:

Prior to appointments with your physicians, take pains to organize your thoughts and questions, and share your most pressing concerns as early in the visit as possible. Maximize your appointments by keeping in mind the fact that the time you have available with your medical team may be somewhat limited by the time constraints busy medical professionals face.   

Remember, you have every right to ask your physicians whatever questions you may have on your mind. It is imperative you understand your medical options, and the courses of treatment you are undertaking. If at any time you aren’t quite grasping the information being presented to you, you can always slow things down, and request explanations. Heather Sentkoski, a clinical social worker at Johns Hopkins, has compiled a list of questions as a guideline:

If you are meeting with a surgeon or oncologist for the first time, do not be afraid to ask:

  • Have you ever treated a PC patient before?
  • If this is a surgeon, how many surgeries have you performed on PC patients?
  • What has the general outcome of those patients been?
  • Where were you trained? (medical school, residency)
  • Which surgeons did you study under?

At any point in the relationship with your physician, you have the right to ask:

  • What is the diagnosis?
  • What treatments are recommended?
  • Are there other treatment options available that you do not provide? (i.e. protocol treatments, herbal therapy, touch therapy, other alternative therapies)
  • What are the benefits of each treatment?
  • What are the side effects of each treatment?
  • What are the medications being prescribed? What are they for? What are their side effects?
  • Are there any clinical drug trials I can participate in?
  • How should I expect to feel during the treatment(s)?
  • What are the risks of the treatment(s)?
  • Will my diet need to be changed or modified?
  • Will I need to take enzymes, vitamins, etc.?

Do not forget to ask about the things that are most important to you:

  • How will pancreatic cancer affect my quality of life?
  • How will pancreatic cancer affect my ability to work?
  • Can my treatment be done as an outpatient so that I can spend more time at home and with family?
  • Will I have any physical limitations? What will they be?
  • How will my current lifestyle be changed?

Finally - and most importantly - ask these questions of YOURSELF:

  • Does my doctor appear interested in answering my questions?
  • Or, does my doctor look annoyed when I ask questions, like I'm doubting their expertise or I am holding them up?
  • Do I feel that my doctor cares about my medical outcome?
  • If you are uncomfortable with the results of some of these questions, you may want to re-evaluate your choice of physician or get a second opinion.