What Should You Know Before Your First Oncologist Appointment?

If you've recently received the sobering news that you have cancer, you may be anxiously preparing for the first appointment with your new oncologist. Being faced with a potentially terminal illness for the first time can be enough to send even the most stoic or capable person into a tailspin, and you may find yourself resorting to online searches to research your potential prognosis and treatment options. However, doing your own research without the medical background or knowledge to know what type of cancer you're facing could be risky, and you'll instead want to get an expert opinion from the oncologist who has reviewed your specific cancer cells. Read on to get a better idea of some of the questions you'll want to ask your oncologist during your initial visit. 

What stage is the cancer, and what does that mean?

Most people know that Stage I cancer is the least serious, while Stage IV cancer can often mean a rigorous treatment regimen including surgical excision. However, the difference between stages can sometimes vary based on the type of cancer present, and certain Stage IV cancers may actually be more treatable than other types of more aggressive cancers that are still confined in the earlier stages. Asking what stage your cancer is currently in and how aggressively this type of cancer usually spreads can give you a better idea of the rigor of the treatment plan you'll be facing.

What courses of treatment have been effective on patients with similar types (and stages) of cancer? 

When determining the best course of treatment, you'll want to be armed with data on the effectiveness of this treatment on other patients with similar types of cancer. This can not only give you some statistics to back up an optimistic attitude and help you avoid pursuing treatments that may not be effective, but it can also provide you with an idea of the side effects you may be facing during your chosen course of treatment. 

What family information do you need to know about me?

Certain types of cancers have a genetic component, and knowing whether your parents, grandparents, or other close relatives have suffered with the same cancer you have can give your oncologist a better idea of the types of treatment that may be most effective for you, as well as the frequency with which follow-up appointments or blood tests may be necessary to ensure the cancer hasn't begun to regenerate.