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Questions for the First Oncology Visit

Jul 26, 2011 by April

One of the things my doctors discussed with me before I started chemotherapy was how likely it was my cancer would recur. With my particular type, uterine papillary serous carcinoma, I was told the recurrence percentage was between 40 and 50 percent if I didn't have chemo or radiation. If I chose treatment, it would be for curative purposes, dropping the possible recurrence rate to under 5 percent. The other thing they told me was that if I didn't have treatment and I did have a recurrence, I would be looking at palliative options versus curative.

Palliative, in general terms, refers to care that alleviates symptoms, whether or not there is hope of cure. It's a focus on quality of life. Making patients comfortable. Curative means able to heal or cure. Big difference.

I've been thinking about the types of things I believe patients should ask at their first oncology appointments, and why. The why is easy: no one cares about your health or treatment more than you and your loved ones. Your healthcare providers are, in a roundabout way, your employees. They're doing a job. Here are the questions I'd ask:
The rest of your questions will likely be based on the answers you get to these inquiries.

I was lucky to hear my doctors were proposing chemo as a curative option. I don't take it for granted. It's one of the reasons I founded Chemo Cargo. Really, the main reason.