doctors

Questions for your Oncologist

Here are seven questions you may want to consider asking when you are having a discussion or consultation with your doctor. Obviously, there are many questions that you can and should ask. These are just some suggestions you may want to consider including.

Did you send my pathology (report and slides) to another hospital for a second opinion?

This is important because mesothelioma can be a very difficult cancer to diagnose correctly and only a small number of hospitals and pathologists specialize in diagnosing and treating this cancer.  A second opinion provides the added assurance that the diagnosis is correct.  Be sure to find out if your insurance pays for this if there is a charge.

Why are you recommending this treatment?

This is a common sense question that many patients forget to ask.  With most mesothelioma treatments there are advantages and disadvantages and this question may help your doctor explain what they are.

What are the potential long-term and short-term side effects?  Did anyone die from the treatment, not the mesothelioma?

Doctors often are focused more on survivability and less on quality of life.  Perhaps they extended a patient’s life by a few months but those months were marked by pain and a poor quality of life.  This question helps explore that.

What is the expected outcome in respect to survival?

Some mesothelioma patients want to know the answer to this question and others do not.  If it’s information you want to know be sure to understand that no doctor has a crystal ball and, as Paul Kraus once said, “a diagnosis is not destiny.”

How many patients have you treated with my exact same cancer? Same age and same type of mesothelioma (cell type and stage)? Which treatments did you use? Are any of the patients still alive? Can I speak with them?

These questions try to validate earlier information that your doctor may have shared.  Obviously, there are privacy concerns so a doctor cannot simply give you the names and phone numbers of other patients.  Your doctor can with your permission, however, ask their previous patients to call you.  This may give you critical insight from the patient’s perspective.

What other mesothelioma treatment options exist?

This is another obvious question that many patients forget to ask.  Keep in mind, however, that most doctors do not know about every possible treatment so the answer may reflect the doctor’s limited knowledge.  That’s why it is helpful to talk to a number of physicians.  You can also call The Mesothelioma Alliance at 619-261-7922.  They can provide resources about some of the leading mesothelioma specialists and latest mesothelioma treatments.

Are there any mesothelioma clinical trials that seem promising and that I might consider?

You can certainly ask your doctor this question but they may not be well versed with the over 30 mesothelioma clinical trials that are taking place throughout the U.S.  You can also call The Mesothelioma Alliance at 619-261-7922.  They can explain how to find this information from The National Cancer Institute.

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