Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Be An Informed Patient: Questions to Ask Your Oncology Team About Your Cancer Treatment Protocol

by Margot Malin, Founder and CEO of Lots To Live For, Inc.

A longer version of this blog post originally appeared on the Breast Cancer Yoga Blog in a post dated 10/9/14. You can view the full post entitled 22 Questions to Ask Your Oncology Team About Your Cancer Treatment Protocol by clicking HERE.

Patients who are well informed and take a proactive role in making choices about their cancer treatment protocol are likely to be more comfortable as they progress through treatment. Knowledge is empowering and knowing what to expect and what comes next demystifies the process.

Be Your Own Health Advocate
Be your own health advocate by asking questions to become informed and “buy in” to your treatment protocol. It is a good idea to bring a friend or relative with you to medical appointments both for emotional support, and also because a second set of “eyes and ears” might understand what is being said differently, they may think of a whole different set of questions, or might interpret ambiguous or confusing information in a different way.  Take notes so you can remember what was discussed. After all, going to a doctor can be both emotional and terrifying.

Here are just a few of the 22 questions in the original post to ask your oncology team about your cancer treatment protocol: 
  • What is the goal of chemotherapy and/or radiation for my cancer? 
  • Why are you recommending chemotherapy / radiation? If you had cancer would you treat yourself with this protocol? How long have you been prescribing this treatment and how many patients have received it? 
  • Which specific chemotherapy drugs will I be given? What are your expectations for this medication? Are there other options that can produce the same or similar results? 
  • What has the success rate been? Do you expect that the tumor will disappear completely, or just shrink in size? Will the cancer start growing again after treatment?
  • How will I know if the chemotherapy or radiation is working? How do you plan to assess the effectiveness of the treatment? 
  • What is the likelihood that my survival time will be increased as a result of this treatment? What is the expected survival time increase as compared to no treatment? 
  • What is the likelihood that my quality of life will be improved after I receive this treatment?
  • What are the risks associated with this treatment with regard to morbidity (adverse effects from the treatment), mortality and the risks of developing another cancer?
  • What can I do to prepare for treatment and decrease the chance of debilitating side effects?
  • What side effects should I expect and how long will they last?  What can I do to reduce uncomfortable side effects if they occur? (please visit for products to reduce and relieve side effects of cancer treatment) 
  • Are there any clinical trials which might be suitable for me which I might want to explore? 
  • Does your practice or does this facility offer an Oncology Nurse Navigator for their patients? (See blog post entitled “What is an Oncology Nurse Navigator?” At
  • What lifestyle changes will I need to make to prepare for treatment, during treatment and after treatment with regards to: Diet, Activities, Work and Exercise?
  • Do you recommend complementary therapies such as yoga, exercise, acupuncture, meditation, and do you have other suggestions? 

Receiving a diagnosis and discussing treatment options can be overwhelming. It is helpful to be prepared for appointments with a concrete list of questions and to take thorough and complete notes. Sometimes it helps to try to take a step away, and approach the discussion clinically. As hard as it is, try to be unemotional and evaluative. Do research, take notes and keep thorough records. We hope these questions will help you take control, and understand your treatment better.

To be forewarned is to be forearmed. Know your options and embrace your informed decisions.  Be your own health advocate! Information empowers, allows the opportunity for choices and makes patients more comfortable with their protocols, and ultimately can improve outcomes.

If readers of this blog post have additional suggestions to add to this list, please comment on our Facebook page at:

You can visit the original Breast Cancer Yoga Blog Post and read all of the 22 Questions for Your Oncology Team by clicking: HERE

Lots To Live For, Inc. offers a collection of cancer resources. Visit Lots To Live For, Inc. for products to help reduce and relieve the unpleasant and uncomfortable side effects of radiation and chemotherapy and to learn more about cancer care products