Open communication is key to finding the right treatment plan.
Finding out that you or a loved one has colorectal cancer is difficult on its own. Then, you’re flooded with new information about your diagnosis and treatment options, which may leave you feeling overwhelmed and maybe even confused.
That’s why it’s important to turn to your doctor and medical team for clarity and comfort. They’ll help you understand your diagnosis, what your treatment options are, what treatment side effects to expect, and where you can find counseling or psychological support.
Having open and honest communication with your care team is the path to finding the best treatment plan for you. This includes not only understanding what your doctor tells you, but not being afraid to ask questions that are important to you. “It's extremely overwhelming to go through cancer,” says Rujuta Saksena, MD, hematologist and oncologist in New Jersey. “The more you know, the better position you will be in in terms of being able to deal with it and what to anticipate with the upcoming treatment options.”
Not sure where to start? Here’s a list of suggested questions to ask your doctor to better understand your diagnosis and treatment options:
Questions to Ask About Your Diagnosis
- Where is the cancer located?
- Has the cancer spread beyond where it started?
- What is the cancer’s stage (extent), and what does that mean?
- Will I need other tests before we can decide on treatment?
- Do I need to see any other doctors or health professionals?
Questions to Ask About Your Treatment Options
- What are my treatment options?
- What do you recommend and why?
- Should I get a second opinion?
- What would the goal of the treatment be?
- What does the treatment process look like?
- What are the risks or side effects of these treatments?
- How might treatment affect my daily activities?
- What are the chances the cancer will recur (come back) with these treatment plans?
- What will happen if the cancer does come back?
Preparing for Your Appointment
Before your appointment, it can be helpful to write all your questions down. Bring a blank notepad and pen to your appointment as well so you can write down the information your doctor gives you.
You may also want to consider bringing a friend or loved one with you for support. “It would be helpful for the patients to bring along a family member or a friend or a partner so that they're able to have a second set of eyes and ears when it comes to this conversation between them and the oncologist or the surgeon,” says Dr. Saksena.
And remember: You are a critical part of your cancer care team. “It's very important for [patients] to ask all the right questions, but also let their providers and their care team know if there's something that they're not happy about,” says Dr. Saksena. “We're all here to support the cancer patients through their journey and ultimately that's going to be the best way to help them throughout.”
Dr. Saksena is a hematologist and oncologist specializing in blood disorders and cancer care.
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I think it's universal when somone is faced with cancer
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to go through certain emotions like anxiety or stress
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and I think anyone in that situation would need
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all the support that they can get.
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The more you know, the better position you will be in
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in terms of being able to deal with it
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and what to anticipate with the upcoming treatment options.
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(narrator) Before asking about treatment options,
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it's important to learn about your specific cancer type.
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Here are some questions to ask.
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Where is the cancer located?
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Has the cancer spread beyond where it started?
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What is the cancer's stage, and what does that mean?
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Will I need other tests before we can decide on treatment?
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And do I need to see any other doctors or health professionals?
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After you understand your diagnosis,
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your doctor will then go over the best treatment
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You will then work with your doctor to find
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the best treatment plan for you.
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Colon cancer is usually treated with surgery,
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but having an open communication with your doctor
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will help you determine whether additional therapy
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after surgery is necessary.
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For example, chemotherapy or radiation
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or targeted therapy, depending on the stage of cancer.
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(narrator) Here are some questions to ask your doctor
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about your treatment plan.
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What are my treatment options?
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What do you recommend and why?
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Should I get a second opinion?
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What would the goal of the treatment be?
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What does the treatment process look like?
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What are the risks or side effects of these treatments?
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How might treatment affect my daily activities?
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What are the chances the cancer will recur
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with these treatment plans?
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And what will happen if the cancer does come back?
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Being faced with a cancer diagnosis is
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and I think it would be helpful
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for the patient to bring along a family member
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or a friend or a partner so that they're able to have
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a second set of eyes and ears
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when it comes to this conversation between them
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and the oncologist or the surgeon.
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I would also recommend that they come
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with a list of questions to ask their doctor,
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as well as a pen and a notepad so that oftentimes
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they can jot down certain things
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that are important to them, so when they go home,
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they have something to look back on.
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If a patient has questions
and they're feeling nervous
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or awkard about asking those questions,
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I would tell them not to feel that way at all.
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Every question of theirs will be important
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and definitely deserves an answer.
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It is extremely overwhelming to go through cancer,
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and the more questions they have,
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and the more information they gather
by talking to their doctor,
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they will be more empowered to go through cancer
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and its treatments in a better way.
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